The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia

Updated June 10, 2016

The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. It draws approximately 3 million Muslims from around the world, and more than 11,000 Americans make the pilgrimage each year. This year, Hajj will take place from approximately September 9–13, 2016. Umrah is a similar pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of the year, but is likely to be more crowded during the month of Ramadan (approximately June 5 to July 5, 2016).

Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah are associated with unique health risks. If you plan to travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah, follow CDC’s recommendations, such as being up-to-date on your vaccines, to help keep you safe and healthy.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

Before your trip:

During your trip:

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

  • The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak( is ongoing in the Arabian Peninsula. CDC has issued a MERS travel alert( with health recommendations to reduce your risk of infection.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
    • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • The World Health Organization considers people with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, and/or weakened immune systems to be at high risk for severe disease from MERS and recommends that people with any of these conditions take additional precautions:
    • Avoid contact with camels.
    • Do not drink raw camel milk or raw camel urine.
    • Do not eat undercooked meat, particularly camel meat.
  • At this time, CDC does not recommend that travelers change their plans because of MERS. Most instances of MERS spread from person-to-person have occurred in health care workers and other close contacts (such as family members and caregivers) of people sick with MERS. Discuss travel plans with your doctor if you have concerns.
  • Follow security and safety guidelines. Hajj is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world.
    • Avoid the most densely congested areas and perform rituals during non-peak hours. Know where emergency exits are and how to get to them.
    • Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp.
    • Carry the contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia and local emergency service numbers.
    • Follow all local laws and social customs.
  • Follow guidelines for hot climates: Dehydration and heat-related illnesses are common during Umrah and Hajj. Temperatures in Mecca can easily exceed 100°F in the summer and early fall. Drink plenty of (bottled!) water, keep cool, and wear sunscreen. Read more about how to prevent these conditions by visiting the Travel to Hot Climates( and Sun Exposure( pages.
  • Use disposable, single-use blades for head shaving: Unclean blades can transmit disease. Male pilgrims should go to officially designated centers to be shaved, where barbers are licensed and use disposable, single-use blades.

After your trip:

Additional Information

Clinician Information