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    The Umrah Pilgrimage

    Umrah is sometimes called Muslims' 'lesser pilgrimage'. This is in contrast to the Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and considered the 'major pilgrimage' for the Muslim faith.

    Hajj is compulsory for all Muslims who are physically fit enough and can afford to make the trip to the Grand Mosque in Mecca at least once. Umrah, on the other hand, is optional but still highly recommended. Two other key differences are that Umrah is not restricted to a certain time of year, unlike Hajj which takes place during a defined period. Also, Umrah takes only a few hours to complete, whereas Hajj has more rituals and is therefore more time-consuming.

    These differences allow a greater degree of flexibility if you are planning an Umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. You will be able to fit your important journey of self-discovery around other commitments in your life.

    Rituals of Umrah

    Every pilgrim performs a series of rituals symbolic of the lives of Abraham and his second wife Hajar. These begin at home, with a full body wash and prayers for the journey ahead.

    On arrival in Saudi Arabia, pilgrims must first visit one of five miqat, or holy barriers, surrounding Mecca. Here, pilgrims stop and assume a ritual state of purity known as ihram. While this is marked visibly by men wearing two pieces of white cloth and women donning loose, simple clothing, ihram is more about preparing spiritually for the duties ahead.

    Mecca traditional clothing

    Arriving in Mecca

    In Mecca, pilgrims complete three tasks:

    First, circle the Kaaba - the most sacred site in Islam - seven times in an anticlockwise direction. This is intended to show the unity of all believers in the worship of the One God.

    Second, make a short walk back and forth between two small mountains called Safa and Marwah, completing four stops at each and reciting a short prayer.

    Third, pilgrims shave their head (women trim their hair) as a sign of their rejuvenated state.

    Planning an Umrah pilgrimage

    A visit to Mecca takes time to plan properly, including booking travel and obtaining visas. At yourtravelshop we have extensive experience of Umrah pilgrimages and can guide you through every step of the process. Contact us today to find out about tailor-made Umrah packages to suit your every need.

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