Many people only ever visit Makkah and Madina to take part in Hajj, when Saudi Arabia is at its very busiest (on average, 3,000,000 pilgrims a year!), so if you’re there during that time it’s unlikely you’ll get to do much sightseeing. Though some of the places on this list play an important part in the Umrah, many of them don’t, and if you are in Makkah and Madina at less crowded times during the year you may want to consider adding these beautiful sites to your itinerary! So here are my top 10 sights to see in Makkah and Madina. Check out the images at the end of the post.
Sites in Makkah and Madina
1) Al-Masjid an Nabawi (Madina)
The “Mosque of the Prophet” has grown much since it was first built in 0AH/622CE, and it was originally the site opposite the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) house, after the Hijra. One of its most famous features, the Green Dome, was the site of Aisha’s house and the Prophet’s tomb.
2) Jamarat Bridge (near Makkah)
Anyone who has visited Makkah during Hajj will be familiar with the name of this pedestrian footbridge in Mina. The first Jamarat Bridge was constructed in 1383AH/1963CE, but it has been expanded several times since to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims who visit Makkah and Madina each year. It is famous during Hajj as the location of the ritual “Stoning of the Jamarat” (aka “Stoning of the Devil”).
3) Maqbaratu l-Baqi’ (Madina)
The cemetery at Al-Baqi’ is situated to the southeast of the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina, and was the place where the Prophet Muhammad buried his companion, Asa’ad Bin Zararah. Controversially, the mausoleum containing the tombs of Imam Hasan, Ali, Sadiq, Baqir and Fatimah was demolished in 1925, but the cemetery itself remains.
4) Masjid al-Qiblatain (Madina)
This beautiful mosque marks the place where the Prophet gave the command for Muslims to change the direction of prayer from al-Quds (Jerusalem) to Makkah. Though the original mosque was built almost 1,400 years ago, the current structure dates largely from the time of the Ottoman caliph, Suleiman the Magnificent.
5) Quba Mosque (Madina)
The Quba mosque is the oldest in the world, having been built by the Prophet when he first arrived in Madina, after migrating from Makkah. Traditionally, it is held that if you offer two raka’at of nawafil prayers at the Quba Mosque, it is the equivalent of performing a single Umrah!
6) Masjid al-Haram (Makkah)
Possibly the most famous mosque in the world, the Masjid al-Haram is in the very heart of Makkah, and marks the point towards which all Muslims must pray. During Hajj it can accommodate an incredible 4,000,000 worshippers, but even during the rest of the year it can host almost 1,000,000! Its most distinctive feature, the Hajar al-Aswad, or “Black Stone”, is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba, and is thought to date back to pre-Islamic times.
7) Abraj Al Bait (Makkah)
Of course, not everything in Makkah and Madina dates back hundreds, or even thousands of years. The Abraj Al Bait complex of skyscrapers in Makkah is the second tallest man-made structure after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, and features the world’s 4 biggest clock faces, each of which is 141 feet in diameter!
8) Zamzam Well (Makkah)
According to tradition the spring at Zamzam appeared miraculously when Ismail, son of Ibrahim was an infant and in need of water. Today it is visited by millions of pilgrims as part of their umrah.
9) Cave of Hira (near Makkah)
Though not an essential part of the umrah or hajj, many visitors to Makkah still choose to visit the cave at Hira where the Prophet received his first revelations from Allah, through the angel Jibreel. It’s located about 2 miles from Makkah itself, and involves a fairly bracing climb, but if you’re feeling fit the cave is well worth a visit.
10) Mina Tent City (near Makkah)
If you’re visiting Makkah during hajj you may be staying in a hotel, or outside the city altogether. For many, “home” during their stay will be the “Tent City” at Mina. But don’t go thinking that this is some less-than-luxurious campsite! Mina houses over 100,000 Teflon-coated tents , each of which has air conditioning. Even if you’re not staying at Mina, it’s worth seeing just for the size, scale, and spectacle of so many pristine white tents in the desert!