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Pilgrimage to Mecca and Karbala – International Travel Guide

Mecca

International Tourism

Tourists and pilgrims from all across Pakistan travel to different destinations all around the year. Couples plan a honeymoon, families pay a visit to their loved ones, adventurers and explorers travel around the world to explore exotic locations and pilgrims visit their holy places to pay homage and tribute. International tourism is gaining pace in Pakistan and you can see tour operators engaged in planning trips for tourists. Publicities outlining tour packages to famous tourist destinations catch our attention very often in our surroundings.

In Pakistan, the Purchasing power of people is not so high and small percentage of the population can only afford to take international tours for the sake of experience and explorations. Pilgrims make up the large chunk of populations as these people by adopting different means of traveling, reach their destinations and consider this their religious duty to perform such religious ritual.

One of the biggest occasions in the life of any Muslim is Hajj.  Quran explains in clear injunctions that it is required by every Muslim, male or female to perform hajj at least once in his/her life, after fulfilling some basic essential of life. People from all nooks and crook of the country save money for Hajj, which is performed once a year in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 

Similarly, the Shia sect among Muslims also considers paying homage to Imam Ali (A.S) and his descendants as an important religious custom. They visit Iran, Iraq, and Syria to pay tribute to the family of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) also known as ‘Ahlebait’.

Every year millions of pilgrims pay tribute to Imam Hussain (A.S), grandson of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H). Imam Hussain (A.s) along with his family and companions were mercilessly martyred on the battleground of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram by forces of Yazid. People visit Karbala, in Iraq and also Shrine of Imam Ali (A.S) in Najaf.

Hajj, Saudi Arabia

Mecca

All the Muslims highly regards the institution of Hajj. It is performed in the month of Zil-hajj and pilgrims from all across the globe visit holy Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform religious rituals. There is a limitation on the number of pilgrims to visit Mecca due to the limitations of infrastructure and logistic arrangements.  From Pakistan, pilgrims travel through planes and it cost them around $1500 to $2000 per person. It covers all the logistic arrangements, air tickets, visa expenses, accommodation, and food.

Also Read: Religious Tourism in Pakistan – Sacred Sites Guide

Pilgrims spend days in Mecca and also travel to Madina where they pay tribute to Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H).  Rituals of Hajj extend over five to six days and upon the completion of Hajj, Eid is celebrated across Muslim Ummah. Eid is celebrated by Muslims to pay tribute to Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) for his true intention for great sacrifice.

Iran- Iraq- Syria

Karbala

Pilgrims visit these places especially on two occasions i.e. 10 of Muharram (Ashura) and on the Arbaeen (40th day after Ashura). Although apart from these two occasions which hold high significance among Shia Muslims, they travel to these places all around the year. They visit shrines of descendants of Imam Ali (A.S) in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

On the occasion of Muharram, millions of pilgrims travel by road or by air. By road, it cost them around $400 per person whereas traveling by plane costs them approx. $1500 to $2000. The tour packages for Muharram are varying some are inclusive of all i.e. foods, lodging, etc. and some only charge for traveling rest of the expense is to be borne by pilgrims themselves.

It is also worth mentioning here that on the occasion of Arbaeen in Karbala, meals and foods are arranged for pilgrims in vast quantity and it is served free. On the roadsides, you can spot stalls serving meals, juices, fruits, etc. even arrangements are made for free accommodation and traveling as well between Najaf and Karbala.

Mode of Traveling

If you want to travel to Saudi Arabia, you can only travel by Airplane. For traveling to Iran-Iraq and Syria you may take the road route as well. The far western border of Pakistan i.e. Taftan on the Pakistan side and Zahedan on the Iranian side connects two countries.  Also, you can travel by Airplane to any of these places.

Places to see

Saudi Arabia:

  • Mecca
  • Madina

Iran-Iraq-Syria

  • Mashhad, Iran
  • Qoum, Iran
  • Najaf, Iraq
  • Karbala, Iraq
  • Kazmain, Iraq
  • Damascus, Syria

Location

Saudi Arabia:

Mecca

Iran-Iraq-Syria:

Iran

Weather conditions

In Saudi Arabia, the weather gets very hot and you must not expose yourself to scorching sunlight as it can badly affect your skin. Winters are mild in Saudi Arabia.

Iran has chilly winters with the weather getting very hot in some regions of the country in summers. Iraq gets very hot in summers and the same is the case of Syria.

Main Religious Events

  • Hajj
  • Umrah
  • 10 Muharram (Ashura)
  • Arbaeen (Chehlum of Imam Hussain)
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