Medina - Saudi Arabia

Medina, located in western Saudi Arabia, is visited by millions of pilgrims every year. The Prophet's Mosque is the literal and figurative highlight - the colossal building seats one million worshippers and is the beating heart of Medina. Non-Muslims are unfortunately not welcome (yet).

622 marks the beginning of the Islamic era, the hidjra. Prophet Muhammad left Mecca in that year and settled in what later came to be known as Medina. After Muhammad's death, the city remained considered the center of the expanding Islamic empire.

Madinah still plays a major role in religion today. The giant Masjid an-Nabawi, or the Prophet's Mosque, is one of the three holy sites in Islam. Every year, millions of pilgrims visit the impressive structure, often before or after theUmrah, the small pilgrimage during which pious rituals are performed, or the Hajj, the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca. For Muslims, visiting the mosque in Madinah is not mandatory. Although it is highly recommended.

The Prophet's Mosque is the literal and figurative highlight of Medina - the colossal building seats one million worshippers and is the beating heart of the city. It is said that the Prophet built, right on this very spot, a modest mosque of palm tree trunks and clay.

See here for more information on umrah, umrah+ and umrah custom trips.

Closed to non-believers

The Prophet's Mosque in Medina is worth a visit for its staggering size alone - the building measures 617 by 675 meters and has ten minarets over a hundred meters high. Unfortunately, that special experience is reserved only for believers. They are the only ones allowed to enter the central area and get a glimpse of the beautiful green dome above Muhammad's tomb.

How does this work in practice? Chances are that you will be asked about your religion at the entrance if you look like a foreign tourist. So it's not like at the airport, where you walk past a checkpoint and have to show your documents. However, there are plenty of stories of non-believers flouting the rules and visiting the mosque. This shows little respect and is strictly frowned upon. If you are caught making an unregulated visit, you will be immediately expelled from the country. Please respect the religious importance of the mosque and be content that, unlike a few years ago, you are now welcome in other parts of the historic city of Medina.

Traces of the prophet in Medina, Saudi Arabia

Muslims are welcome 24 hours a day at the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah. But they must also follow some important rules. For example, women may visit the mosque only after morning and afternoon prayers and in groups, and the space where Muhammad is buried is open only to men. This central space, between the pulpit and the Prophet's tomb, is called Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah. During the Hajj, it is so crowded here that no square inch of the green carpet is left unused. For Muslims, the Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah is a piece of Jannah, or in other words: paradise.

Everywhere in and around Medina you will find puzzle pieces from the life of Muhammad. Right next to the mosque is the Jannat al-Baqi cemetery, where most of his relatives and followers are buried. On the outskirts of the city is the Quba Mosque. According to tradition, the Prophet laid the first stones in person. Could this be the world's oldest mosque?

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