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I'm not a Muslim (I consider myself as Jain/Hindu, etc) but I wish to travel around Mecca. There is a common belief around the world that only Muslims are allowed inside Mecca. Is that true?

Can I travel to Mecca for a tour? Is there any restrictions around it based on religion?

If it is restricted based upon religion, what are the options to travel to Mecca as a curious traveler/tourist?

What about Jabal al-Nour, the 'mountain of light' on the outskirts of Mecca? Is this site accessible to those who do not qualify to visit the mosque?

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    Superb question! Would you possibly expand it to include Jabal al-Nour? I understand that it is a pilgrimage site and may be accessible. Would love clarification. – Gayot Fow Sep 25 '15 at 5:45
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    I asked a similar question on Islam. I see the question has been closed, but you can still read the answers. It's more from a religious than traveler perspective though... islam.stackexchange.com/questions/25499/… – Baard Kopperud Sep 25 '15 at 11:34
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https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Mecca

Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering the city of Mecca. Road signs to guide non-Muslims are provided. The minimum penalty is deportation from the country. Documentation will be checked upon entry and anyone not showing proof of being Muslim will be refused entry. As a solitary exception, the Mecca bus terminal (outside city limits) is open to all.

More:

If you remain on the main highway, there is a police checkpoint just after the exit, where non-Muslims are kept out of the holy city.

Actually this is decision of Allah and he stated in Quran: "Oh you who believe! Truly the idolaters are unclean; so let them not, after this year, approach the Sacred Mosque"

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    As far as I know, the Qur'an verse is about the mosque. Not whole makkah. Again, I am not sure. – Nean Der Thal Sep 25 '15 at 5:03
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    Can you please discuss the meaning of that verse on islam.stackexchange.com? What's relevant for this website is the actual situation, not the justification for it. – Philipp Sep 25 '15 at 7:42
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    How exactly would anyone notice that I am not a Muslim? It's not like that's written in my passport or something. – Josef Sep 25 '15 at 8:58
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    Read the "get in" section in the linked wikivoyage article. You will be surprised: it is written into your passport. It's your Umrah/Hajj visa. You can only get it if you come from a Muslim majority country or provide documentation you are Muslim. – chx Sep 25 '15 at 9:03
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    Hmm... But Christians and Jews are not "iodlators" (people who worship statues and other idols - like the vikings), but among "the people of the Book" (ie. followers of "the One True God" - the God of Abraham). Though I guess it's not the first time religious leaders takes something mention in a holly book and runs with it far farther than authors of the book ever intended. – Baard Kopperud Sep 25 '15 at 11:32
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+100

Only Muslims are allowed to travel to Makkah according to the current rules of Saudi Arabia.

Is that an Islamic rule? No. Makkah during the prophet Mohammed's time had non Muslims, they were never kicked out. This rule shows up after that, not sure when exactly, the point is: it's not an Islamic rule.

Can you still visit, simple answer is: YES. There are check points before Makkah, they do not check everyone, but if they did and find you non Muslim, they will ask you to turn around.

If you manage to get into Makkah, then the chances of being caught is close to zero, as long as you do not cause any problems. What's the maximum that can happen to you? To my knowledge, you will be escorted out of Makkah after a few hours in detention.

For me, if I was in charge, I would let everyone visit, it's a great city on top of many little mountains with a great view of houses built on top of them. A lot of tunnels inside these mountains and really a fantastic mosque.

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    Do you have a citation for your claim that sneaking into Mecca is not a high-risk activity? – March Ho Sep 25 '15 at 8:23
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    How do they know if you are Muslim? – Michael McGriff Sep 25 '15 at 16:11
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    I found at Wikivoyage that "If the applicant is not a national of a Muslim-majority country or was not born a Muslim, s/he must present a certificate notarized by an Islamic center testifying that s/he is a Muslim." in case anyone else is curious. – Michael McGriff Sep 25 '15 at 17:02
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    @NeanDerThal I think the burden of proof is on the answerer that his answer is correct and well-cited. While answers without citations may be acceptable on this site, the answer can be greatly improved by adding them. – March Ho Sep 26 '15 at 23:11
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    @MarchHo I am a local, i know how things go here. I know the law and that stuff, but reality is what matters. That's my opinion. – Nean Der Thal Sep 26 '15 at 23:34
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If you enjoy being deported and detained, then by all means try to sneak into Makkah.

Deportation for non-muslims caught in Makkah and Medina results in a lifetime ban from the country.

The signs are clearly marked; for example - for those coming from the East (Riyadh):

enter image description here

Makkah (the city) is entirely off-limits. It includes the buildings (and other mosques and religious sites) around Makkah and of course the Haram.

Now can you sneak by? Sure - you can dress in the ahram (the two piece cloth Muslims wear during Umrah and Hajj), and you may not be questioned.

However, considering that if you are caught, the punishment is entirely up to the judge I would not risk it. Note this is on top of the normal punishment which is deportation and lifetime ban.

  • Burha, they DO NOT check each car, I just been there twice in the past few weeks. Each car stops at the check point but 1% or so are checked. – Nean Der Thal Sep 27 '15 at 12:22
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    They will waive you through (for example, with my mom in the next seat, they don't stop the car); but trust me - they know what to look for; also as I said - if you are in the ahram they will not stop you. – Burhan Khalid Sep 27 '15 at 12:23
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The only way a non-muslim can legally go to Mecca is with special permission of the government, which you might get if, for example, you were needed to do some skilled work that you were uniquely qualified for.

Breaking the law in KSA is not a good idea.

  • There is no such "special permission" from the government. – Burhan Khalid Sep 27 '15 at 12:16
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    @BurhanKhalid there's always special exceptions if a person in the right place is handed the right amount of money... This is pretty much universally true of bureaucracies around the world. But yes, the case is presented rather simplistic here. Typically such foreigners would face a demand to convert to islam before they're allowed to do their job. – jwenting Sep 28 '15 at 5:43
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    There are no exceptions. Even during the siege of the Grand Mosque in 1979; the French soldiers sent were converted to Islam before being allowed on site; "A team of three French commandos from the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN) arrived in Mecca. Because of the prohibition against non-Muslims entering the holy city, they converted to Islam in a brief, formal ceremony." see Wikipedia for details. However, if you have some evidence of such exception - please post it. – Burhan Khalid Sep 28 '15 at 5:48
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    @BurhanKhalid Hmm, but converting back from Islam to something else has a considerable worse punishment, so I'm not sure if converting to Islam, entering Mecca, and then surrendering Islam, is a wise strategy ;-) – gerrit Sep 28 '15 at 17:08
  • @Burhan, I hope you were joking and not really believing these fairy tales 😉 – Nean Der Thal Sep 29 '15 at 14:57

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