“Another turning point; a fork stuck in the road” – Green Day.
This is a world border which is slightly different to those in my normal World Borders series, as whether you enter this border or not depends solely on one thing – if you are a Muslim or a Non-Muslim. I am a Non-Muslim and will not be converting to Islam, but on our recent trip to Saudi Arabia, there was a chance to understand the Mecca (Maccah), this truly spiritual and religious place which has its own world border onto itself. As well as reading about it at many museums and watching the Mecca’s Call to Prayer live from our hotel room, there was the border to check out. Luckily I was working in Saudi Arabia with Young Pioneer Tours and I got my Saudi Visa.
This world border in my series could easily go with my India-Pakistan border, DMZ tour, the Chernobyl Exclusion zone and a few others where the border was not really defined by a country but by other circumstances. Yes, this border is defined by Saudi Arabia but it is a religious border and one of the only places on earth that I am sure I will not visit. However, we got close and came to that fork…
Mecca is so spiritual and religious that there is a zone around the city where you are not allowed to enter unless you are a Muslim. On this trip, only our driver, Mohammad was a Muslim. We asked him to stop at the final point in the road where we had to turn off onto the Non-Muslim section. This was a handy stopover and a memorable experience on our route from Jeddah to Taif.
Getting to The Fork in the Road Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia
It’s as simple as this – get a driver to take you here. Yes, foreigners and Non-Muslims do live here in Saudi Arabia and have cars and therefore drive themselves. True. But Don’t Stop Living has always been a touristic travel blog, so as a tourist, the best way to do this will be with a guide. They know more and you won’t break any laws. If you are a Non-Muslim you are forbidden to enter this zone. I was on tour with Young Pioneer Tours in conjunction with Haya Tour.
We drove out of Jeddah (on route to Taif) and about an hour and fifteen minutes later we saw a sign for Mecca and Muslims only. This part of the road had a security checkpoint and a fork to the right. Our driver Mohammad took the fork to the right and then about another mile or two down from that there was another exit point. This provided us with the final chance we had on that road, to drive towards the Mecca. We stopped at this fork to take our photos and look at where we could and couldn’t go.
Crossing in the Mecca Zone for Muslims Only in Saudi Arabia
As we were all Non-Muslims except for Mohammad, we didn’t take the crossing into the Mecca so I have no experience of doing this route however, the car and all passengers will be checked and you will be asked if you are a Muslim or not. Non-Muslims will be refused entry.
Staying in the Saudi Arabia Zone for Non-Muslims Only in Saudi Arabia
So we didn’t take the Muslim only turn off and this means there are no checks, as you stay within the same country and boundaries here in Saudi Arabia. We simply got out of the car and took a few photos and videos by the boundary zone. It was very interesting seeing it right there knowing we couldn’t go in.
As we are staying in Saudi Arabia (the Mecca border doesn’t change the country you are in), there are no passport checks, languages changes, currency changes or anything of that nature. Mohammad got back in the car and off we drove to Taif. This is kind of a Non-Muslim bypass road to avoid the Mecca. While I have photos of one of these entrances and checkpoints to the Mecca, many others exist so you can ask your driver to take you to one of many. These exit points circle the Mecca.
After that, we are bypassing the Mecca and therefore you can see into the area where the Mecca is. The most obvious sights are the large Abraj al Bait Towers in the Mecca. You can easily see this from a distance but you won’t be able to see the Grand Mosque which houses the famous Kaaba – the black shrine in the centre that we have seen on TV so many times. It’s too far away. If you are a Muslim and want to visit it – you can get a Hajj visa and visit for the Hajj, which attracts between 4 and 5 million Muslim pilgrims each year.
So I recommend at least getting up to this border and seeing the Mecca in the distance. There are also some nearby towns and cities with a high elevation which allow you a good viewpoint down to the Mecca – this is another option for Non-Muslims who are curious to see this place. On this trip however, I was happy to get up to the fork in the road and continue on my journey…
Here are some videos of our trip between Jeddah and Taif, where we got to the fork in the road: