Saudi Arabia - Medina

The fabulous umbrellas at The Prophet Mosque Photo by said alamri / Unsplash

Leaving Jeddah, it was a 4 hour drive to reach the city of Medina, the 2nd holiest place for Muslims. An ever-changing desert landscape, just service stations and one cameleer with his flock. ½ hour out of town Aziz advised it was time to don our hijabs, which we had purchased in Jeddah.

Even though rules have been relaxed and modest western attire is suitable for most of Saudi Arabia, women must wear the hijab in Mecca and Medina, only to be removed in the privacy of our hotel room.

Medina is filled with simple white buildings where the mosques are the highlight as elegant minarets rise to the azure blue sky. Of the significant mosques we visited three.

The Prophet Mosque - it is said to be the burial place of Prophet Muhammad. A permit is required to visit his tomb reserved for Muslims only.

Camels in the desert; The Prophet Mosque and its fabulous umbrellas; one of several women wanting a photo with us; me under more umbrellas; women praying; Quba mosque. Photos: Jane

Up to 1.5 million people can be accommodated, many under the hundreds of elegant umbrellas which close the reverse way allowing rain water to drain through the open central column. Their size is deceiving as 300 worshippers can pray under each umbrella.

Even in our hijabs we were easily recognised, several women welcomed us, smiling, shaking our hands and wanting photos. The best part of our visits.

We were not actually allowed within the perimeter of this mosque, but we managed a short time admiring the umbrellas and taking in the atmosphere before a guard shooed us off!

The umbrellas intrigued me. In the 1 min video below you can see the umbrellas opening and closing.

This short bookmarked article provides a little more information on the umbrellas.

Majestic Umbrellas in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Mosque-Madinah
The mosque of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Madinah, also known as Masjid An Nabawi, is a prominent holy place for Muslims. Every year, millions of Muslims from all around the world visit this mosque. The Saudi government installed elegant shade umbrellas that function automatically to shelter pilgrim…

The Quba Mosque was built in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE and thought to be the first mosque in the world, built on the first day of Muhammad's emigration to Medina.

At this mosque we were allowed to enter the women’s section - the smaller back part of the mosque - women prostrate and pray in front of a timber screen. Unlike mosques I’ve visited in other countries which are intricately decorated and lit by extravagant chandeliers, in Saudi the interiors are very plain. Again, several women wanted to know our nationality and some even hugged us.

The Masjid al-Qiblatayn (Mosque of the Two Directions) is believed to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad, received the command to change the Qibla (direction of prayer) from Jerusalem to Mecca.

As non Muslims, we were not allowed to visit Mecca - their holiest city, however we found it fascinating to be immersed in the Islamic culture of Medina with the fabulous architecture of the mosques.

The next day we headed north to the majestic and rugged landscape of Al Ula and the site of a little known city of the Nabateans who are famous for their capital - Petra in Jordan. Join me in a few days to uncover some of their secrets.