Hajj and Umrah Pilgrimage
The Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world.
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th-13th day of the 12th month in the Islamic calendar (Dhu al-Hijjah). The Islamic calendar is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the western world. The Gregorian date of the Hajj is eleven days earlier from year to year. In 1440H (2019) Hajj will fall approximately between 9th to 14th August 2019.
The Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year. Umrah is not considered as compulsory but it is highly recommended in Islam. There are two different types of Umrah.
Umrah can be combined with the Hajj (Umrat al-tammatu) or taken independently of the Hajj (al-Umrat al mufradah).
All pilgrims should aim to be fit for Hajj, the pilgrimage can be an arduous undertaking for even the fittest individual. Keeping active, improving mobility and exercising appropriately is recommended. Some travellers may benefit from a general health check-up with their GP prior to departure to optimise their health, particularly the elderly and those with medical conditions. If you are a woman wishing to delay menstruation during Hajj, you should discuss this well in advance of travel, with a healthcare practitioner that can prescribe hormonal therapies.
If you take regular medication you should ask your GP to review your prescription and ensure that you have sufficient medicines to cover your trip. A letter from your GP detailing current medication may prove useful for immigration purposes. All medicines should be kept in their original packaging and carried in your hand luggage with a printed copy of your prescription.
A personal first aid kit is essential for pilgrims, it should include: dressings, plasters, small bandages, antiseptic lotion/cream, adhesive tape, sun burn lotion, scissors, safety pins, antihistamine cream, blister dressings, rehydration salts, analgesics for pain and an antidiarrhoeal agent.
The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) has issued their requirements and recommendations for entry visas for the Hajj and Umrah in 2019 These are updated annually.
In addition the Saudi MoH website includes useful health information and resources for pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health Advice (2019)
For Hajj 1440H (2019) the Saudi MoH recommends that the elderly (over 65 years of age), those with chronic diseases (such as heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, diabetes), immune deficiency (congenital and acquired), malignancy, terminal illness, pregnant women and children (under 12 years) postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah for their own safety.
Visitors arriving for Umrah, Hajj or for seasonal work in Hajj zones, are required to submit a valid vaccination certificate with a Quadrivalent (ACWY) meningococcal vaccine administered no less than 10 days prior to arrival to Saudi Arabia.
Vaccination with ONE of the following vaccines was acceptable:
- Quadrivalent (ACWY) polysaccharide vaccine within the last 3 years.
- Quadrivalent (ACWY) conjugate vaccine within the last 5 years.
Note: If the vaccine type was not indicated in the certificate, the certificate was considered valid for 3 years.
Vaccination with Quadrivalent (ACWY) conjugate vaccine was also required for:
- domestic pilgrims
- residents of the two holy cities (Mecca and Medina)
- any person who may be in contact with pilgrims including personnel in healthcare settings
The Saudi MoH advised they may opt to administer prophylactic antibiotics to some travellers at the points of entry if deemed necessary.
The Saudi MoH requires that all travellers arriving from countries or areas at risk of yellow fever transmission (see link below) must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. The yellow fever vaccination certificate is valid for life starting 10 days after vaccination.
- Countries with risk of yellow fever virus transmission
The Saudi MoH advises that all travellers arriving from countries with circulating wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus, and from countries at risk of polio reintroduction are required to submit a valid polio vaccination certificate.
Travellers arriving from Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen should present proof of vaccination with at least one of the following vaccines:
- At least one dose of bivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV) within the previous 12 months and administered at least 4 weeks prior to arrival.
- At least one dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) within the previous 12 months and administered at least 4 weeks prior to arrival.
- Travellers arriving from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen will also receive one dose of OPV at the border points on entry in Saudi Arabia regardless of age and vaccination status.
You should check that you are up-to-date with the recommended immunisations for life in the UK.
- If it has been more than 10 years your last dose of diptheria/tetanus/polio vaccine you should get a booster dose.
- The pre-travel consultation provides a good opportunity to check history of measles immunisation or disease.
Other vaccine recommendations for Saudi Arabia are available on the country record.
Mosquito Bite Avoidance
- See Mosquito Bite Avoidance for further details.
Respiratory Infections and MERS CoV
Respiratory tract infections can spread easily in crowded areas. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV) can cause fever, cough and breathing difficulties. The precise way it is spread in not fully known, but very close contact with cases and contact with dromedary camels are linked to infection.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health recommends face-masks are used at crowded and congested places, especially during circumambulation of the Ka’ba (Tawaf), stoning (Rajm), and walking between Safa and Marwa (Sa’i).
- Face-masks should be changed in accordance with the guidelines provided by the manufacturer
- Wash your hands before putting on and after removing your face-mask.
You can reduce your risk of acquiring and spreading respiratory infections by:
- maintaining good hand hygiene
- avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
- covering your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and disposing of them in nearest waste bin after use
- avoiding direct contact with persons with a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items such as their mobile phone
- avoiding close contact with animals, particularly camels-avoiding drinking unpasteurised camel milk, camel urine, or eating undercooked camel meat
If you develop severe respiratory illness during travel you should:
- seek medical help early
- avoid crowds until symptoms have resolved, or wear a face-mask in crowded areas if avoidance is not possible:
- ensure nose and mouth are covered with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing, dispose of them appropriately and wash hands
Travellers’ Diarrhoea is common for all travellers during Hajj. The responsible bacteria and viruses are spread by food or water that has been accidentally contaminated with sewage, and may also be accidentally swallowed after touching contaminated surfaces. All travellers are at risk; however, people with underlying health problems can be at greater risk of becoming rapidly and dangerously dehydrated. Preventing dehydration during an episode of travellers’ diarrhoea is important:
- clear fluids such as diluted fruit juices or oral rehydration solutions, such as packets of oral rehydration salts sold in pharmacies, should be drunk liberally
- all rehydrating drinks must be prepared with safe water
- antibiotics are unnecessary in most cases
Seek medical attention if diarrhoea is severe, or there is blood or mucous in your poo, marked vomiting, fever or abdominal pain.
- Further information on travellers' diarrhoea.
Climate Related Health Risks
Even during the winter months, temperatures during the day in Saudi Arabia can reach 30°C. Sunburn, sunstroke, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration are a risk for everyone. Where possible arrive in time to allow acclimatisation to the hot conditions before undertaking Hajj. It is important to:
- rest when possible
- maintain good hydration with safe liquids
- seek shade where possible
- umbrellas can be used to create shade
- Saudi authorities have decreed that pilgrims can perform some rituals between sunrise and sunset to avoid high daytime temperatures
- use a sunscreen factor 15 or higher
- see sun exposure for further information
- see heat and humidity for further information
Blood-borne Virus Transmission Associated with Shaving
Non-sterile blades can transmit blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. You are therefore advised to:
- use a licensed barber at officially designated centres-avoid street barbers
- ask the barber to wash their hands before shaving you
- check your barber is using a disposable single
- use razor or ask them to use your personal razor-avoid all other kinds of razors, including the ones which have their blades changed after every shave
Accidents and Injuries
Accidents and injuries do occur during the Hajj pilgrimage. Traffic vehicle accidents are a potential hazard, pilgrims may walk long distances through or close to dense traffic and busy roads. Pilgrims with diabetes or poor circulation to the lower limbs must take particular care to look after their feet.
- Minor injuries to the feet are common, ensure you have good quality protective footwear.
It is strongly recommended that all travellers obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance, including repatriation, before travel.
After the Hajj
Seek medical attention if you have a fever with respiratory symptoms or any other severe symptoms on return from Hajj. You should contact a doctor as soon as possible and ensure that you mention your travel history.
The resources in this section have been produced by Health Protection Scotland (HPS).
The information leaflet below details how Hajj pilgrims can manage travel associated risks to enable them to protect themselves, their family and the wider community.
- Advice for those travelling to the Hajj (English)
- Advice for those travelling to the Hajj (Arabic)
- Advice for those travelling to the Hajj (Bengali)
- Advice for those travelling to the Hajj (Urdu)
The infographic poster below recommends that Hajj pilgrims prepare themselves for travel by visiting their GP 6-8 weeks before departure. The poster may be displayed in GP surgeries, mosques, social clubs and other venues where they may be seen by those planning to go to Hajj or Umrah. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the information leaflet above.
- Information from the The Council of British Hajjis
- Information from the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK