Hajj, a religious pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by Muslims from around the world, is known as the world’s largest gathering of people. The pilgrimage lasts for five days and is the fifth pillar of Islam.
All able Muslims are required to perform this journey once in their lives.
The event brings together a diverse group of Muslims from a wide variety of nationalities and backgrounds.
Hajj is a gathering of people from all different historical and cultural groups. Unfortunately, this also creates greater safety and health risks. For a safe trip to Hajj, here’s some tips to keep your experience free from any health or safety hiccups.
What Vaccines Do I Need for Hajj?
The CDC and World Health Organization recommend these vaccines for Hajj: hepatitis A, typhoid, meningitis, hepatitis B and rabies.
Proof of meningitis vaccination is required to take part in Hajj.
Routine immunizations against diseases like measles or pertussis are also recommended if you have not received them.
Take a look at the individual pages or contact Passport Health for more information about each vaccine. Call us at to schedule an appointment by booking online now.
Risks of Cholera at Hajj
Yemen is in the midst of a devastating cholera outbreak.
The local government has already confirmed more than 300,000 cases, with over 6,000 new cases every day.
While this may seem irrelevant for an event that takes place in Saudi Arabia, Mecca is less than 700 miles from Yemen. This epidemic may increase as large amounts of people travel through the area. The disease could easily spread and could become worse.
The WHO warned in July that cholera could pose a “serious risk” for the millions of Muslims making the journey this year. In a statement, the organization claimed that the cholera “may represent a serious risk to all pilgrims during the (Hajj) days and even after returning to their countries.”
To prepare for this increased health risk, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health established a Command and Control Center, created to monitor cases and to provide vaccines and face masks for travelers.
The most reliable method to avoid this disease is with the cholera vaccine.
Vaccination isn’t the only way to ensure you stay cholera-free while attending Hajj:
- Avoid drinking any water that isn’t bottled or purified.
- Ensure that all your food is cleaned properly or cooked. Heat from cooking can reduce most of the cholera bacteria.
- Wash your hands whenever possible. Always use water and soap after using the bathroom, as the bacteria comes from fecal matter that gets into food and drink.
Respiratory Infection in Saudi Arabia
Respiratory infections are common for pilgrims to Mecca. Large and busy crowds can also create greater risk of spreading tuberculosis.
Heat-related illnesses are another serious concern.
Saudi Arabia is home to sweltering heat and the crowds only make it seem hotter. Participants should make sure to stay hydrated and seek shade when possible.
One of the most serious diseases Hajj participants are at risk for is the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
MERS is a life-threatening disease, with roughly 40 percent of cases proving fatal. Because of this bacteria, the Saudi Arabian government recommends that some people shouldn’t go to the event. Pregnant women, children and those with health issues should all consider skipping Hajj.
What Safety Concerns are Associated With Hajj?
Hajj is a life-changing experience, but any event of this size will pose some safety concerns.
Safety incidents such as stampedes have led to thousands of deaths since 1975.
The most recent large-scale tragedy was in 2015, when over 700 people were injured in a stampede. The Saudi government vowed to improve safety concerns in response to that tragedy. But, even with better safety, some risks still linger.
Whether you have family in the area or not, all visitors to Saudi Arabia must have a travel visa.
Many travelers without friends or family in the area tend to hire tour groups for travel help. This can be a wise way to travel through Hajj, but always carefully vet a tour before making your plans.
Many travelers are taken advantage of by fraudulent tour operators. A list of vetted travel agencies can be found on the Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Don’t take any photos at the Holy Mosque at Mecca or at the Prophet’s Mosque at Medina. Doing so is forbidden by Saudi authorities.
Women under the age of 45 must travel with an immediate male family member, known as a “mahram.” Women over 45 can travel with a tour group without a mahram, but must submit a letter of no objection from the person who would have filled the role.
The U.S. State Department can help provide more safety and travel information for any possible participants to Hajj.
Written for Passport Health by Mia Armstrong. Mia is a freelance writer and avid traveler. She is passionate about seeing the world and telling its stories.