The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia

Updated April 24, 2017

The annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. In 2017, Hajj will take place from approximately August 30 to September 4. 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 May 27 to June 24).

Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah are associated with unique health risks. Before you go, you should visit a travel health specialist for advice, make sure you are up to date on all routine and recommended vaccines, and learn about other health and safety issues that could affect you during your trip.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

Before your trip

During your trip

  • Take steps to prevent illness. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Protect yourself against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Cases of this disease continue to occur in the Arabian Peninsula. See CDC’s MERS travel notice for prevention information. People with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, or weakened immune systems may be at high risk for severe disease from MERS. The World Health Organization recommends that people with any of those conditions take additional precautions:
    • Avoid contact with camels.
    • Do not drink raw camel milk or urine.
    • Do not eat undercooked meat, particularly camel meat.
  • Follow security and safety guidelines for mass gatherings.
    • Avoid the most densely congested areas. Perform rituals during non-peak hours. Know where all emergency exits are and how to get to them.
    • Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp.
    • Carry local emergency service numbers and contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia..
    • Follow all local laws and social customs.
  • 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.

If you feel sick during your trip:

  • Talk to a doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
  • For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.
  • Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

After your trip

If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Some travel-related illnesses may not cause symptoms until after you get home. Be sure to tell the doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also, tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.

Additional information

Information for doctors