Staying Safe in Saudi Arabia During the Hajj Pilgrimage

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For most travelers, Hajj is the number one reason for a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Muslim pilgrims seen walking and praying inside Kaaba, the most holiest shrine in Muslim religion, at the Grand Mosque in Mecca Photo © Getty Images/Jasmin Merdan

Every muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life, and more than three million people do the Hajj pilgrimage each year.

However, with so many people arriving at one time, this can cause logistical nightmares for visitors (and locals). 

Between 1990 and 2015, thousands of pilgrims have lost their lives in stampedes and crowd crushes. It is highly recommend that pilgrims listen carefully to all instructions and warnings issued by the Saudi Arabian government to insure the religious event runs smoothly and safely. In 2015 more than 2,000 pilgrims were suffocated or crushed during the pilgrimage – making it the deadlilest Hajj in history.

Hajj: Muslim attendees only

Hajj is for Muslims only, and there are plenty of signs letting you know if you're straying into an area that is intended for Muslims only, usually with helpful arrows on the main roads saying "Muslims Only" with big arrows pointing the other way for "Non-Muslims".

Be careful, because if you're a non-Muslim and enter one of the Muslim only regions, it is considered sacrilege and the penalty can be prison or deportation if Saudi Arabian government forces catch you.

Recommended vaccinations for Saudi Arabia

There are vaccination requirements for entering Saudi Arabia during Hajj, and these include proof of vaccination for the following:

  • Meningitis, specifically the ACYW135 strain
  • Yellow Fever if you arrive from a country with known infections
  • Vaccination against polio for children up to the age of fifteen
  • Seasonal influenza
  • Meningococcal.

Hajj attracts literally millions of people from all over the world, so it is advised that you discuss with your doctor what vaccinations you will need before you go.

Restrictions on Hajj visitors

As many as three million people a year go there to perform Umrah (all year around pilgrimage) and Hajj (major annual pilgrimage).

If you are visiting Saudi Arabia as a Muslim to attend Hajj, be aware that there are new restrictions in place regarding how frequently you can go. Currently, you are not allowed to go more than once every five years to accommodate the vast number of visitors annually.

Danger during the ritual of Jamaraat

The major danger in attending Hajj occurs during the ritual of Jamaraat, The Stoning of The Devil. Statistically speaking, this is by far the most dangerous period during Hajj as many people have literally been trampled to death within the crowds of pilgrims in previous years. This is when more than 2,000 people were killed in a stampede near the Jamaraat Bridge.

Crowd crushes and stampedes are a very real danger during Hajj, as the rush of pilgrims to move from one station to another of the pilgrimage can cause panic. Always remain aware of the risk at all times. Over the last 25 years, thousands of people have died.

Staying safe in crowded places

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj offers the following advice for remaining safe during Jamaraat.

  • Adhere to the schedules designated for you by the Mutawwif
  • Adhere to the lanes designated for proceeding to the Jamaraat and returning from Jamaarat
  • Avoid pushing your fellow pilgrims and proceed quietly and calmly
  • Do not carry personal effects
  • Do not walk against the direction of the traffic.

This advice is important to follow, as several of the incidents of stampede have occurred due to people trying to exit from the wrong lanes.

Other than stampede, major dangers include fire that may break out amongst tents.

No-one said it would be easy, and it's not meant to be, but this is a sacred duty for all Muslims to make at least once in their lifetime.

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  • Abdullah said

    You are missing most important tip which is cell phone. In this world largest event you should need to take the mobile/cell phone along with local network.

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  • aayat sabiha said

    Masha Allah

    you have discussed a pretty well topic which is most of the peoples not notice and also given instruction
    to the pilgrims and i have received good information and tips form scholar of Sara international travel
    which given me a good tip for umrah

    thankyou for the safety tip

  • nahlia said

    I think its also important to mention the risk to women of sexual assault, which is well documented.

  • me said

    very nice

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