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For other places with the same name, see Medina (disambiguation).

Medina (Arabic: المدينة, Madinah), officially known as Al-Madinah al-Munawwarah (Arabic: المدينة المنورة, al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah), is a city in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia.

Commonly referred to as the "cradle of Islamic culture and civilisation", it is Islam's second holiest city.

Although a visit to Medina is optional (though highly encouraged) and not part of the Hajj, most pilgrims visit Medina after completing the Hajj before they head home.


A view of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque)

Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, where he was welcomed, and taught there for some years before his triumphant return to Mecca. He died in Medina in AD 632 and was buried there, the location on which the Prophet's Mosque now stands. His house where he passed away is still part of that mosque.

Get in[edit]

Caution Note: Non-Muslims are allowed to visit Medina, but they are prohibited from entering the fenced area around the Prophet’s Mosque.

Unlike Mecca, Medina is open to everyone, including non-Muslims. Non-Muslims used to be banned from Al-Haram, the city centre, but this rule was relaxed in 2021, so outside the Hajj season, non-Muslim tourists may now head all the way up to the perimeter fence of the Prophet's Mosque and take photos from the outside. Entry into the Prophet's Mosque is still banned for non-Muslims. However, as of April 2023, enforcement of this rule is lax, as there seems to be no one that would ask questions at the entrance.

If you plan to visit during the Hajj season, you must apply for a Hajj visa.

By plane[edit]

For 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.

  • 1 Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport (MED  IATA). This airport fields an increasing number of direct flights from around the Middle East, and the airport is accessible to non-Muslims. It 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 a foreign concept. Also, beware of scammers (see "Stay safe" below). To get from the airport to the city, use taxis, Uber, or the public bus. The bus is the cheapest option, and is perfectly servicable. The bus stop for route 400 is outside and to the rightmost edge after you exit the building from baggage claims. You can pay for the bus by credit card (the driver comes around with a card reader before departing), although there are ATMs and currency exchange booths inside the terminal if you'd like cash. The downside of the bus is that it only has one stop, which is a 10-minute walk to the north of the Prophet's Mosque. From there you can either hail a taxi to your hotel, or walk. If your hotel is to the south of the Prophet's Mosque, you may have to walk around the western perimeter of it, as baggage is not allowed inside of the area. You cannot easily walk around the east side of the mosque; it is a busy road with no walking paths. Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport (Q1205940) on Wikidata Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport on Wikipedia

By bus[edit]

The 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.

By train[edit]

Medina is linked with Jeddah and Mecca via high-speed railway. Services are frequent, with up to 15 departures per day in each direction. Journey time is just under two hours from Jeddah and 2½ hours from Mecca.

  • 2 Medina railway station, King Abdul Aziz Rd (East of the centre).

Get around[edit]

Public transport is limited; taxis and Uber are useful for getting around.

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).

If you take a non-Uber ride, negotiate the price up front. You can use Uber to establish your baseline (maximum) price. People will often ask for prices well in excess of the Uber price.

There is a shuttle (looks like a train of golf carts) that runs along Qiba Road between the Prophet's Mosque and the Quba Mosque. Payment is done in cash to the driver, and you can hop on anywhere along the way (although payment is the same regardless).


Whether you are a practising Muslim or simply curious about Islam, Medina is the perfect place to deepen your curiosity about one of the world's largest religions.

Religious sites[edit]

  • 1 The Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, المسجد النبوي). The Masjid Nabawi, or the Prophet's Mosque, is the second most important pilgrimage site in Islam, where devout Muslims offer prayers. Men are allowed to visit the 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. Only Muslims may enter the mosque compound, while non-Muslims may only take photos from outside the perimeter fence. Prophet's Mosque (Q486080) on Wikidata Prophet's Mosque on Wikipedia
  • 2 Al-Baqi' (Jannat al-Baqī, ٱلْبَقِيْع) (adjacent to the Prophet's Mosque). A huge graveyard, where most family members and companions of the Prophet are buried. It is only open for a few hours each day. The entrance is at the western side of the graveyard; non Muslims can enter as it's not part of the fenced Prophet's Mosque complex. You walk along a linear path that winds through the graveyard, and guards are stationed at various points along the path. For religious reasons (discouraging ritual veneration of the dead), the graves are largely unmarked, and taking photographs or lingering along the path is discouraged (albeit not explicitly prohibited) by the guards. Al-Baqi' (Q154204) on Wikidata Al-Baqi Cemetery on Wikipedia
  • 3 Mount Uhud. Other 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. Mount Uhud (Q1436040) on Wikidata Mount Uhud on Wikipedia

Apart from the main Prophet's Mosque, there are numerous historic mosques scattered around the city. Almost all are working mosques, meaning that visits might be limited.

  • 4 Masjid al-Qiblatayn. Further away is the Masjid al-Qiblatayn 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 al-Qiblatain (Q2334553) on Wikidata Masjid al-Qiblatayn on Wikipedia
  • 5 Masjid Jumua. Masjid Jumua where the Prophet prayed the first Jumua or Friday prayers. Al Jum'ah Mosque (Q14921963) on Wikidata Al Jum'ah Mosque on Wikipedia
  • 6 Masjid Al Ghamamah. Masjid Gamama where once he had prayed for rain. Mosque of Al-Ghamama (Q12242769) on Wikidata Mosque of Al-Ghamama on Wikipedia
  • 7 Masjid Quba, 3493 Al Hijrah Rd, Al Khatim. This is either the oldest mosque in the world or the second-oldest, and dates from the time of the Prophet Muhammad. New construction was added in 1984. Quba Mosque (Q276569) on Wikidata Quba Mosque on Wikipedia


  • 8 Al-Madinah Museum, Omar Ibn Alkhtab Rd. One 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. Al-Madinah Museum (Q65121306) on Wikidata Al-Madinah Museum on Wikipedia
  • 9 Dar Al Madinah Museum (next to the high-speed railway station). A smaller, private museum that hosts a number of models of old Medina.
  • 10 Castle of Urwah bin Zubair (قصر عروة بن الزبير). (Q20396763) on Wikidata

Further afield[edit]

Another place worth visiting is the battleground of Khandaq or the Trench.


1 Masjid Al-Nabawi. The Prophet Muhammad's burial site lies inside the mosque. Off-limits to non-Muslims.


Prayer rugs for sale outside the mosque

The streets leading to and around the Prophet's Mosque are lined with shops selling goods of every variety. Visitors to Medina usually buy prayer rugs (some with magnets pointing towards the Kaaba), caps, Tasveeh or rosary beads, Abayas, pictures of the holy city and mosques, religious CDs, copies of the Holy Quran, clocks sounding Azan or the call to prayer (correct to the second) for nearly 5 million cities, etc. as souvenirs to take back with them or as gifts for family and friends. The best of them to take back are dates from Medina.

There are also huge glittering shopping complexes and malls selling goods from all over the world.

Credit cards are largely unaccepted in smaller businesses. Few banks will exchange travelers' checks. Many larger businesses, chains, and convenience stores will accept credit card and even Apple Pay.


There are restaurants selling diverse foods, largely from across the Muslim world. There are Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants in abundance. Many of these restaurants will serve favourites such as shawarmas and falafel. There is also Chinese, Indonesian, Turkish, Egyptian, and local food.

The Western fast-food chains 1 McDonald's, KFC, and Hardee's have outlets in the city, as do Saudi chains such as Al Baik and Kudu. The cheapest local specialities are shawarma, taamiyya (a type of vegetable sandwich), foul (cooked beans) with tameez (bread), and Broasted chicken which refers to pressure fried chicken cooked and seasoned similarly to KFC. There are always dates.

As of November 2023, to the north of King Fahd gate, there is a street with numerous street food stalls. The food comes from various countries with significant Muslim populations, including Indonesia, China, India, Pakistan, and other countries in the Middle East.


As it is everywhere else in the country, alcohol is prohibited. Drinking any kind of beverage during daylight hours during Ramadan is subject to punishment by the religious police and thus shouldn't be done in the open.


A fruiting date palm in Medina

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 center[edit]

  • 1 Al-Majeedi ARAC Suites, Northern Central Zone, +966 4 820 0000 ext 5100. It 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. Best rates on official website start at SR 400.
  • 2 Taiba ARAC Suites, Northern Central Zone, +966 4 820 0000 ext 1005. It 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. Best rates on official website start at SR 2300.
  • 3 Hotel Pullman Zamzam Madina, Amr Bin Al Gmoh Street, +966 14 821 0500.
  • 4 Madinah Hilton, King Fahd Rd, +966 14 821 9100. Has 357 rooms with free Wi-Fi and a TV. There is a cafe that works from 10AM to 11:45PM and two restaurants on-site. Parking is free of charge.
  • 5 The Oberoi, Madina (فندق اوبروي المدينة المنورة x), 1880, Abizar Road, +966 14 828 2222.
  • 6 Al Andalous Suites.
  • 7 Dar Al Hijra Intercontinental, +966 14 8207777, . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 12:00.
  • 8 Anwar Al Madinah Hotel, +966 14 8181000, .
  • 9 Al Muna Kareem Hotel.

Outside city center zone[edit]

The following hotels are open to all.

  • 10 Le Méridien Medina, Khaled Bin El Waleed Road, +966 14 846 0777. Previously 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. About SR 600 per night.

Stay safe[edit]


Many visitors think that because Medina is a holy city, they need not fear being treated dishonestly. 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.


Dress appropriately, especially if you will be entering mosques. Even if you aren't visiting a holy site, if you wear shorts, you will often be the only person in view who is doing so, which may draw attention towards you.

Go next[edit]

Mecca is the other holy city visited by people taking part in the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) or the Hajj. You can hire a taxi to take you to Mecca, which will cost about SR 500 for up to four passengers. A much cheaper way to get there is to use the SAPTCO (Saudi Arabia Public Transport Company) bus services instead. There are two versions: regular and VIP. The regular service is reasonably comfortable and will cost SR 55 per person. The VIP version (which you can catch from the Crowne Plaza hotel) is slightly more luxurious and will cost SR 100 per person.

The fastest way between the cities is take the high-speed trains, which cover the distance in about 2 hours. The trains operate between Medina and Mecca, with stations at King Abdullah Economic City and Jeddah (Naseem) and King Abdulaziz International Airport.

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