Hajj and Umrah Pilgrimage
On 22 June 2020, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj & Umrah released an official statement (in Arabic) which announced that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia will not be permitted to enter the country to perform Hajj. Only a very limited number of Muslims, who already reside in Saudi Arabia, will be allowed to perform Hajj 1441H (2020). A ban on Umrah also remains in place.
This means 1441H (2020) Hajj packages for all international pilgrims, including those from the UK, have been automatically cancelled.
On the 23 June 2020, in a press release from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj & Umrah, both Yasmin Qureshi MP and Rashid Mogradia (CEO of the Council of British Hajjis) have strongly urged Pilgrims to check that they have a valid ATOL certificate which affords them financial protection.
Those that have booked to undertake Hajj this year should contact their airline, travel company or other transport and accommodation providers to seek a refund or request to take their bookings forward for Hajj next year.
Hajj is a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia and is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. All able-bodied adult Muslims try to make Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
The pilgrimage takes place from the 8th-13th days of the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar, called Dhu al-Hijjah. The Islamic calendar is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar which is used in the western world. This means the Gregorian date of the Hajj is eleven days earlier from year to year.
In 1441H (2020) the approximate dates for Hajj to take place would be between 28 July - 02 August. This year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic, those planning to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage are currently being advised to delay booking any travel by the Muslim Council of Britain and The Council of British Hajjis until further notice.
Further information from the Muslim Council of Britain including advice about Hajj 1441H (2020) can be found here
Further information from the Council of British Hajjis including advice about Hajj 1441H (2020) can be found here
The Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year. Umrah is not considered as compulsory as Hajj, but it is highly recommended in Islam.
There are two different types of Umrah. Umrah can be combined with the Hajj (called Umrat al-tammatu) or taken independently of the Hajj (called al-Umrat al mufradah).
On the 27th February 2020, the Ministry of Hajj & Umrah announced the temporary suspension of Umrah until further notice. This is due to fears over the coronavirus disease (COVID19) spreading. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have not yet set a specific date to resume Umrah. The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah are processing refunds for those issued with Umrah visas affected by the suspension of Umrah.
All pilgrims should aim to be physically fit for Hajj and Umrah. The pilgrimage involves walking a few miles every day and can be strenuous, even for the fittest individual. Keeping active, practicing walking and improving your overall mobility and fitness is recommended at least 4-6 weeks before departure in preparation.
Older people and those that have a known medical condition may benefit from undertaking a general health check-up with a GP prior to departure to ensure health is optimised. You should also consider undergoing dental and eye health check-ups as required to ensure you are in good health.
If you are a woman wishing to delay menstruation during Hajj, try to discuss this at least 2-3 months in advance of travel with a healthcare practitioner that can prescribe hormonal therapies.
If you take regular prescription medicines, you should ask your GP to renew your prescription and make sure that you have enough medicines to cover the duration of your trip. A letter from your GP listing your current medicines may prove useful for immigration purposes. All medicines should be kept in their original packaging and carried in your hand luggage along with a printed copy of your prescription, for further information see travelling with medicines. Some medicines, such as morphine based drugs, might be restricted in Saudi Arabia. Please check on the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website for more information.
A personal first aid kit is essential for pilgrims to carry. It should include items such as dressings, plasters, small bandages, antiseptic lotion/cream, adhesive tape, sun burn lotion, insect repellent, scissors, safety pins, antihistamine cream, blister dressings, oral rehydration salts, analgesics for pain and medications to control diarrhoea.
Try to keep your luggage small and light and consider using suitcases with wheels to avoid stress to your back. Regular leg and foot exercises are recommended during long journeys to reduce your risk of ankle swelling and blood clot formation.
You can become dehydrated easily during travel, therefore you should try to drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated at all times. Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating and drinking and after using the toilet to minimise your risk of becoming unwell during travel. For further information see food and water precautions. The Saudi MoH advises pilgrims against carrying food items into the country.
Comprehensive travel insurance, which includes evacuation and repatriation benefits is recommended to cover the duration of your trip.
We recommend visiting the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website to check for the latest travel and safety advice before booking any travel.
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health Advice
The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) issue their requirements and recommendations annually for entry visas for the Hajj and Umrah, the updated recommendations have not yet been announced for 2020. This page will be updated when this information is released.
For Hajj 1440H (2019) the Saudi MoH advised the following people should postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah for their own safety and this advice is unlikely to change:
- Older people (over 65 years).
- Those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease or diabetes.
- Those with a condition affecting their immune system; malignancy (cancer) or terminal illness.
- Pregnant women.
- Children (under 12 years)
Further information from the Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) website can be found here
Each year before Hajj season the Saudi MoH advise of the vaccination requirements for Hajj pilgrims. The 2020 requirements have not yet been published. This page will be updated when this information is released.
Before travel to Hajj, you should be up to date with the recommended vaccinations for Saudi Arabia. Having a pre-travel consultation at least 6-8 weeks before you travel provides a good opportunity to check your vaccination history and have any recommended boosters.
- Routine childhood vaccinations such as diphtheria, tetanus and polio; and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination should be up to date.
- Seasonal influenza vaccine is optional but highly recommended.
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.
In 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health recommended wearing face-masks in 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. You should wash your hands before putting on and after removing your face-mask.
You can reduce your risk of acquiring and spreading respiratory infections by:
- practicing good hand hygiene
- avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands
- covering your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing, and disposing of used tissues in nearest waste bin after use
- avoiding direct contact with people who have a respiratory illness, and avoid sharing their personal items such as their mobile phone.
- avoiding close contact with animals, particularly camels; avoid drinking unpasteurised camel milk, camel urine or eating undercooked camel meat
If you develop a 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 your nose and mouth are covered with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands afterwards
- use an alcohol based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol if you do not immediately have access to soap and water
Travellers’ Diarrhoea is common for travellers during Hajj. The responsible bacteria and viruses are spread if your food or water has been accidentally contaminated with poo. You may also become infected if you accidentally touch contaminated surfaces and then don’t wash your hands before eating or drinking and touching your face. All travellers are at risk; but people with underlying health problems, older people or young children can be at greater risk of becoming quickly and dangerously dehydrated. Preventing dehydration if you experience travellers’ diarrhoea is important. You can do this by:
- drinking plenty of clear fluids such as water and diluted fruit juices; or oral rehydration solutions such as packets of oral rehydration salts sold in pharmacies
- preparing any rehydrating drinks using safe drinking water
- seeking medical attention if the diarrhoea becomes severe, or there is blood or mucous in your poo, or if it is accompanied with severe vomiting, fever or abdominal pain (antibiotics are unnecessary in most cases)
Further information can be found on the travellers' diarrhoea page.
Climate Related Health Risks
Even during the winter months, temperatures during the day in Saudi Arabia can reach greater than 30°C. Sunburn, sunstroke, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration are a risk for everyone. Saudi authorities have advised that pilgrims can perform some rituals between sunrise and sunset to avoid high daytime temperatures.
Where possible, try to arrive in the country a few days early to allow you to acclimatise to the hot conditions before undertaking Hajj. It is important to:
- rest when possible
- maintain good hydration with safe liquids
- seek shade where possible (light coloured umbrellas can be used to create shade)
- wear good quality footwear to protect your feet
- use a protective sunscreen factor 15 or higher
Blood-borne Virus Transmission Associated with Shaving
- avoid sharing shaving blades or razors during preparation for Hajj rituals.
- use a licensed barber at officially designated centres and avoid street barbers.
- ask the barber to wash their hands before shaving you.
- check your barber is using a new 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.
- ensure used blades are disposed of safely after use in designated containers.
Accidents and Injuries
Accidents and injuries do occur during the Hajj pilgrimage. Traffic vehicle accidents are a potential hazard as pilgrims may have to walk long distances through, or close to, heavy traffic and busy roads.
Minor injuries to the feet are common. Therefore you should ensure you wear comfortable, good quality protective footwear. If you have diabetes or any condition causing poor circulation to your lower limbs, you must pay particular care and attention to the health of your feet.
It is strongly recommended that travellers have comprehensive travel insurance, including medical repatriation, before travel.
After the Hajj
If you develop a fever with respiratory symptoms, or develop any other severe symptoms on return home from Hajj or Umrah, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible and make sure 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.