Medina (Arabic: المدينة Madinah) is a city in Saudi Arabia, to the north of Mecca.
By planeFor pilgrims, the most common route is to arrive in Jeddah by plane, and get on a special pilgrims' bus to Mecca and Medina, and come back to fly home in a couple of weeks.
Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz AirportThis airport fields an increasing number of direct flights from around the Middle East, and the airport is accessible to non-Muslims. Keep in mind that this is a very small airport, and not really designed to cope with the large numbers now passing through it. So expect a crush at the baggage carousels. And expect a free-for-all in the check-in areas, where queuing seems to be (literally) a foreign concept. Also, beware of scammers (see "Stay safe" below).
By busThe Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) runs luxurious buses several times daily to and from most parts of the country at cheap rates. There are also privately run buses. The SAPTCO terminal is off-limits to non-Muslims.
A new high-speed railway linking Medina with Jeddah and Mecca opened in Sep 2018 with 8 services a day. The is east of the centre, along King Abdul Aziz Rd.
There is no public transport other than taxis. If you are on the side of the road, you might find locals willing to pick you up and take you to your destination for a fee, even though they aren't officially taxis, but beware of con artists from among both official and unofficial taxi drivers (see "Stay safe" below).
Al-Masjid an-NabawiSince it is visited only by Muslims, for religious purposes, the main thing to see is the Masjid Nabawi or the Prophet's Mosque where devout Muslims offer prayers. Men are allowed to visit the actual burial site of the Prophet and pay respects throughout the opening hours of the mosque, which used to close for the night at around 10PM but has since become 24/7. Women may visit only after the Fajr or dawn and Duhr or afternoon prayers, when they are taken there in groups according to their countries.
Jannatul BaqiIn fact most of the things to be done or seen are around this grand mosque which is at the city centre. Adjacent to the mosque is Jannatul Baqi, a huge graveyard, where most family members and companions of the Prophet are buried.
Al Madina Museum in Al Hejaz Railway Stationaddress: Omar Ibn Alkhtab RdOne of few non-religious sites in Medina, this museum is housed in the former terminus station of the Hejaz railway and showcases the history of Medina from prehistoric to modern time.
Mount UhudOther things to be seen, a little away from the city, are the plains and mountain of Uhud where the battle took place. There is also the burial ground of the 70 martyrs of this battle including the Prophet's uncle Hamza who is considered one of the greatest martyrs of all time.
MasjidsNearby there are several notable masjids (mosques) that can be visited.
Masjid QiblatayenFurther away is the Masjid Qiblatayen where the Quran recounts that the Prophet was ordered by Allah to turn his face from Jerusalem to the Kaaba in Makkah while offering prayers.
Masjid JumuaMasjid Jumua where the Prophet prayed the first Jumua or Friday prayers.
Masjid Al GhamamahMasjid Gamama where once he had prayed for rain.
address: QubaMasjid Quba at Quba, which is the first mosque of Islam.
Another place worth visiting is the battleground of Khandaq or the Trench.
There are also huge glittering shopping complexes and malls selling goods from all over the world.
Credit cards are largely unaccepted, and few banks will exchange travelers' checks.
The well-known Western fast-food chains such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Don Giovanni's and KFC all have outlets, as do Saudi chains such as Al Baik, Kudu and Hardeez. The cheapest local specialities are shawarma, taamiyya (a type of vegetable sandwich), foul (cooked beans) with tameez (bread), roasted whole chickens called Broasts. There are always dates.
Medina has many hotels, most of which are very close to the mosque. Numerous 5 star hotels have been and are being constructed all around the Prophet's mosque within a radius of 500 m. Beyond these are many budget hotels extending miles from the Masjid Nabavi. The tariff depends on a hotel's distance from the mosque, the nearer the more expensive. Even these low cost hotels have facilities like proper beds with clean linen, carpeted floors, air conditioning, refrigerator in every room, tiled bathrooms fitted with either eastern or western type WCs (sometimes both), 24 hours running hot and cold water. Kitchens with LPG and burners and sinks are also available for those pilgrims who would like to cook their own meals. But now all of these small old hotels are being demolished on a large scale to make way for starred hotels.
City centerThe following hotels are for Muslims only.
phone: +966 4 820 0000 ext 5100address: Northern Central ZoneIt offers spacious and air-conditioned serviced apartments, all of which has a telephone, cable TV, and private toilet and shower with bathtub. Some of its amenities are currency exchange, dry cleaning/laundry, and safe deposit boxes. While staying here you can visit some tourist spots like Masjid Al Nabawi, Qiblatayn Mosque, and Masjid Musallah.
phone: +966 4 820 0000 ext 1005address: Northern Central ZoneIt offers air-conditioned suites aptly boasting a private toilet with shower and bathtub, cable TV, and phone. Some of its amenities are currency exchange, dry cleaning/laundry, and safe deposit boxes. While staying here you can visit some tourist spots like Masjid Al Nabawi Al Sharief, Qibalatin Mosque, and Baqi ‘Al-Gharqad.
phone: +966 14 821 0500address: Amr Bin Al Gmoh Street
phone: +966 14 820 1000address: King Fahd Rd
phone: +966 14 828 2222address: 1880, Abizar Road
- Al Andalous Suites
- Madina Al Rawda Suites
- Dar Al Hijra Intercontinental
- Anwar Al Madinah Hotel
- Al Muna Kareem Hotel
Outside city center zoneThe following hotels are open to all.
phone: +966 14 846 0777address: Khaled Bin El Waleed RoadPreviously the Sheraton, this is the only branded hotel in Medina open to non-Muslims. It is near the airport and often used by airline crew.
ScamsMany visitors think that because Medina is a holy city, they need not fear being treated dishonestly. Sadly, that is not a safe assumption. Below are some scams to beware of:
- As you leave the secure area of the Medina airport and into the arrivals hall, if you look like a well-to-do visitor from a wealthier country, you will be approached by a confident and well-spoken man demanding to see your passport. This person is NOT an airport or government official, but is actually working for a local taxi company and you should demand to see ID if anyone asks for your passport. If you do give him your passport, he will then ask you to follow him to a desk where it will be handed over to someone who will pretend to be scrutinising it carefully for a while and then tell you to follow one of his colleagues to the taxi rank where you will certainly be hideously overcharged for your journey into central Medina. There are standard set prices for taxi journeys from the airport into central Medina, as set by the government, and these will be listed on signs in the car park area. Do not be tricked into paying over the odds.
- Beware of taxi drivers - both official and unofficial - selling you a sob story about great hardships at home, or even saying they are about to go and fight Jihad in Palestine, Chechnya, Burma etc., and will ask you for a donation. These are always lies designed to con you out of money, as they know pilgrims are feeling charitable and won't question the lies. Never fall for this trick.
- Beware, as some shops and kiosks will unashamedly short-change you as they know few people will realise and it is easy money for unscrupulous businesses. So if you are from a place where you trust shops to be honest then you need to be much more cynical while you are in Medina. Confirm the price before you hand over cash and then double-check your change. If you get less than you should have, be firm in asking them for the correct change. They will then give you the correct change without complaint as there are severe penalties for theft, which is essentially what short-changing people amounts to.