Umrah. Performing Umrah had been on our minds ever since we got married. In fact, we had begun discussing the pilgrimage even before we got married! 3 years later and by the grace of God, we managed to travel across the world – from Thailand to Poland to Hawaii to Mexico. However, every time we planned on visiting Saudi, one thing or another always came in the way. But this time, it was different, this time (by the grace of God again), we made it happen! And Alhumdulilah for that.
I can go on and on about our Umrah journey on another blog post, but one thing I’d like to mention here, which was a major deciding factor for us, was learning about the new tourist e-visa process implemented by the Saudi government. It has now become easier than ever before to get a visa, and everything can be done online or even in-person on arrival. So if you’ve been debating and have always worried about all the paperwork involved, you’ll be pleased to know that the process is much, much simpler now. You definitely don’t need to go with a group, you can apply yourself, book the hotels on your own, and you’ll be good to go! Inshallah.
This is exactly what we did – we booked our flights, got the e-visa online, and confirmed our stay with the one and only, Fairmont Makkah – all in a matter of days. We chose the landmark hotel not only because of our love for the Fairmont brand, but because many of our friends and family highly recommended staying within the hotels in the Abraj Al Bait Complex, which is walking distance from the Haram. One close friend of mine even went as far to say that the hospitality at Fairmont Makkah is unparalleled and tops hotels in most international cities. So we were super excited to find out for ourselves!
And without a doubt, our Umrah experience with Fairmont Makkah was out of this world – to say the very least. The hotel has taken the meaning of hospitality and luxury to a whole new level. During our stay, since the hotel was only about 100 meters from Haram, we were able to perform our daily prayers, multiple tawafs, nightly ibadat, while at the same time enjoying the numerous amenities that the hotel has to offer.
To begin, let me tell you some stats about the hotel, just to give you an idea of the scale of the property. Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower is one of the world’s tallest buildings with a whopping total of 76 floors! The five-star hotel has 1650 guest rooms, suites, and residences, allowing thousands of guests easy access to and from Masjid Al Haram. With 56 elevators, the hotel manages to seamlessly integrate worship with state of the art hospitality. Needless to say, it has been named the Best Luxury Hotel in Makkah by the Hajj Awards as well as being presented the Hospitality Leader of the Year Award by Middle East Hospitality Awards. This is in addition to several other local accredited awards by TripAdvisor and Expedia.
As soon as we arrived, we were impressed by the level of security at the property. It was definitely reassuring to see how organized and smooth the check-in process was. We head up to our room and were blown away by the surprises that were awaiting us. There were so many sweet treats, it’s as if the Fairmont Makkah team knew how big of a sweet tooth I have! They even had personalized cake for us, which we chose to cut with the staff that took such great care of us during the stay. Let me add that the treats weren’t only for our arrival, the baklawa, fruits, and macarons were replenished on daily basis (Fairmont Gold perks)!
Another thing to note is that we were fortunate enough to get a Kaaba view room. A friend of mine had given me a heads up that hotels generally draw the curtains for you so you get to have your “first look” when you are ready, and preferably in-person when you are downstairs in the Haram. And I’m so glad she told me that! Even though I was super tempted to pull the curtains and see the view as soon as we got in the room, we waited until we went down for Isha and it was truly a remarkable experience. No words can describe my emotions at that time and I just pray all Muslims get to experience it at least once in their lifetime!
Since we were in ihram, we were planning on completing Umrah after Isha prayers and eating dinner after that. But once we saw the tempting in-room dining menu, we realized how hungry we were, and decided to eat first, get fueled up, and then head back down for Umrah. We ordered a chicken burger, club sandwich, and wings – everything was prepared fresh and quickly! We especially liked the chicken wings because they had a spicy kick to them, which we weren’t expecting!
In addition to an amazing room service menu, Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower also has numerous other dining options to choose from. In fact, the next day, we had breakfast on the 29th floor at Al-Dira. The breakfast buffet was amazing, to say the least. There were so many options, and it was busy as well, which shows how popular the restaurant is! In addition to the food, the views from the 29th floor were incredible! Shout out to Kazi and Maged for taking great care of us and even making karak chai for Faizan, which is his favourite! Definitely recommend checking out this restaurant while you’re in Makkah. Whether or not you’re staying at Fairmont Makkah. Everyone is welcome!
While we’re on the topic of dining, I’ll share some of the other fabulous options available to you for a quick bite. The hotel has a huge restaurant called Atyaf – we had lunch here quite a few times and it’s also open for breakfast and dinner as well! The service here was totally unbeatable. As always with the Fairmont brand, everyone is willing to go out of their way to make sure you are happy with your meal (even if it’s a buffet set up). I must add that it is an enormous buffet! The first time we ate there, we didn’t realize there was a whole other section which had even more options including live cooking stations and desserts. Oh my God don’t get me started on the desserts. This was the first time we tried “Om Ali”, a traditional Egyptian pudding-type dessert, and we were instantly hooked! We even had it for room service each day after that. They also had all the baklawa your heart could desire, presented so eloquently, you almost didn’t want to eat it (who am I kidding, I still ate it)! The live stations have foods such as Kabsa, which is similar to pilao. Faizan loved this and we had it multiple times too! Trying different authentic cuisines is definitely one of the best parts of traveling, and we love that the dining experience always bring friends and locals together. You can’t go to the Middle East and not have shawarma, so I unapologetically filled up my plate with shawarma meat and fries with hummus and tahini. The fresh pita was delish and I couldn’t get enough!
Alternatively, if you’re in a mood for a quick bite between prayers, the hotel also has Mazaq Café where you can find pastries, coffee/tea, as well as other sweet and savoury delicacies. The staff and chef at Mazaq were super helpful and talented, and at one point, we felt as if we had been transported to France!
The next day, we got a chance to go behind the scenes and take a look at the kitchen where everything is prepared. According to the staff, the kitchen at Fairmont Makkah is almost the size of a football field! Everything was so clean and organized, which it has to be when you’re running such a large scale operation. While we were getting a tour of the kitchen, we also learned that unfortunately, over 16 million meals are wasted every year in Saudi Arabia. To help bring this number down and reduce waste, Fairmont Makkah is actually part of a Fairmont Sustainability Program which ensures that clean and non-perished food are donated to local charities at the end of every day. This just gave me another reason to love the Fairmont brand (as if I didn’t have enough already)!
We also got to see the ballroom and meeting rooms available for booking throughout the building. Various weddings, ceremonies, trade shows, and conferences are held in the Al Jiwar Ballroom, which has a capacity of up to 2000 guests! They also have in-house wedding coordinators and culinary chefs which will make all your destination wedding dreams come true!
Our stay included access to the Gold Lounge, which is open from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, and we often found ourselves dropping by for a quick snack and some Arabic coffee. The Lounge spans across two floors and is beautifully decorated, which is why we kept coming back for more! The Fairmont Gold Lounge is definitely one of our favourite perks of opting for Gold whenever we travel. Other royalties include 24hour private-butler service and private check-in and concierge support as well. Fairmont Gold is truly the epitome of luxury when it comes to hospitality, and I always recommend indulging for special occasions! Special thanks to Mohammed Baattia and Ali Ahmad for taking such great care of us!
Before heading home, we knew we had to check out the wellness facility at the hotel, which includes a gym and spa. We found it fascinating that Fairmont Makkah chose to open a spa within the hotel, because it’s not a common occurrence in Makkah from what we saw. This just goes to show that there’s no harm in getting some R&R while you’re on vacation! I mean, of course, your number one priority while visiting Makkah is worship, but not going to lie, it was nice to have the option to literally “soak-in” all the feels. I took advantage of the Jacuzzi and sauna while Faizan enjoyed a relaxing massage. Now, I understand that some may be skeptical of the concept, but we personally enjoyed the experience. The way I see it, if we can go on vacations to Mexico and Thailand, where we enjoy such amenities, why not add some balance to our Umrah journey as well. If anything, the downtime actually helped us recharge and get ready to head down for more prayers that night! Win-win!
Not a part of the hotel, but also located on the top four floors of the building, is the Clock Tower Museum – which we recommend for all inquisitive minds who would like to learn more about the role of science in Islam as well as the development of time and the Clock Tower itself. I’d recommend going between Asr and Maghrib so you can catch the sunset from up above, with gorgeous views of the Kaaba, the sky, and the city at large. It was truly a “let this sink in” moment for me when I looked up and saw the clock right above me. No words could describe how grateful I was to be there.
Lastly, we have to mention all the options for shopping within the Clock Tower. We got a bunch of souvenirs at reasonable prices and enjoyed meeting local shop keepers as well. We bought abayas, prayer mats, some prayer beads, and even hijabs from there. For zamzam you have to buy it at the airport before leaving, and are limited to one bottle per person. We saw some people filling up and keeping extra bottles in their checked luggage but not sure whether this is permitted or not. So use discretion when it comes to that. For all your other needs (including barber services after Umrah), head on over to the Abraj Al Bait Mall, and you won’t be disappointed – I mean they even had an H&M!
To be honest, I always thought staying at Fairmont Makkah would probably cost a fortune and only the super wealthy could afford being so close to the Kaaba, having those amazing views, etc. But I’ve come to realize that with Fairmont, there is room for everyone. Sure, if you want to go all out, I would suggest going for Fairmont Gold and dining at Al-Dira every day. But if you are on a budget, you can definitely still consider Fairmont Makkah for your Umrah or Hajj needs. Especially when it comes to Umrah, now that you can basically coordinate the trip yourself (no need for travel agencies), you’ll be saving a lot of money. I would suggest putting that money to good use and staying at the Fairmont. The service is honestly unbeatable and at the end of the day, the prime location is what it comes down to for us. You are minutes from the Kaaba, you hear the Athan directly in your room, and you can experience this spiritual journey like never before!
Hope you enjoyed my “quick” summary of everything Fairmont Makkah has to offer! I wish you all the best on your Umrah/Hajj journey. May all your prayers be accepted and answered. Ameen!
Until next time,
/In Partnership with Fairmont Makkah