Saudi Arabia is well-known as a place for Islamic Pilgrimage. In fact, most tourists visiting the kingdom are actually pilgrims. When I went on my pilgrimage trip, I was hesitant on what I needed to pack for Saudi Arabia. Other than the extreme climate, I had to keep in mind that it’s a conservative country and so clothing must meet some standards in public space. So here’s my tips on what to pack for a trip to Saudi Arabia.
City: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
How to pack for Saudi Arabia
It’s definitely a challenge to pack for hot weather and meet Saudi standards of decency!
By islamic standards, women should wear black abayas and use a headscarf. Men are forbidden to wear shorts. However, these rules are more relaxed in cities like Jeddah on the Red Sea. But more inforced in conservative areas and the pilgrimage cities of Madinah and Mecca.
The best thing to do to get around these rules is wear a Thawb for men, which is an Arab garment, usually with long sleeve and coming down to ankle. So it covers the whole body. Even though it’s ankle-length, it is still very refreshing to wear as it’s quite loose so the air flows well underneath and it’s also a great way to fit into the local culture with clothing.
Similarly, women can wear a Abaya which is also long-sleeve and ankle-length garment. In conservative areas, abayas are worn in Black and with a headscarf covering the whole hair. In less conservative regions of Saudi Arabia, it’s possible to get around the Abaya and wear other Western clothes as long as they are decent and covering the whole body. However, use your own judgment for decency. For example, tight skinny jeans highlighting a women’s curves are not a great idea even though they cover until the ankle.
It’s also advisable to wear walking shoes as there is a great deal of walking in Saudi Arabia, whether in the cities or while visiting touristic area.
Read more: My visit of Al Madinah
Pack for the indoors
Saudi Arabia is full of indoor activities and a great thing to do is visit one of the many malls in the kingdom. For that, you need to be prepared for AC. Temperature outside might be 40 degrees but indoors, the AC is so strong as it’s set at 18 degrees. I remember the moment I enter a mall, I was feeling the relief from being outside under the heat. But after less than half an hour, I start to feel the opposite. It gets very cold suddenly that I needed to leave. The best thing to avoid that, is to pack a light jacket to wear indoors.
What NOT to be bring to Saudi Arabia
Some things are strictly forbidden and illegal in Saudi Arabia. Do not bring: alcoholic drinks and spirits, offensive and sexual material and symbols about other religions than Islam like religious books from other religions. The problem is that it’s not clear what’s forbidden to take to Saudi Arabia. However, those items above are definitely (and obviously) forbidden in KSA. There are rumours that contraceptives and jewellery are forbidden but nothing is confirmed about that.
What to pack for Saudi Arabia trip
Overall, pack what you would pack for when visiting a hot country. Just take into consideration the local Saudi laws and traditions. Here’s a quick checklist:
- Thawb for men or Abaya for women, although it’s best to buy one locally
- Headscarf for women
- Decent and full body covering Western clothes
- Sun cream
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Jacket or scarf for indoor AC buildings
- Small backpack for walks to use as carry-on for camera, phone and water
Read more: 5 Steps of Omrah Pilgrimage
What to pack for Pilgrimage to Mecca
In addition to the list above, pilgrims should bear in mind that some clothing related to the ritual should be taken into consideration. While women can perform Hajj or Umrah with a Abaya and headscarf. Men should make few arrangements on more things to pack. List for Ihram Clothing:
- The rida which is one unhemmed towel sheet to drape over the torso
- The izar which is one unhemmed towel sheet for the bottom secured by a belt
- Pins to hold hijab or Ihram Clothing
More information for Moroccan pilgrims can be found here.
Watch my vlog from Al Madinah and SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.
Do you have more tips on things to pack for a trip to Saudi Arabia?