During the day, Mecca is a bustling hub of pilgrims, scholars and tourists. But when the sun goes down, the city changes. With world-class restaurants, expansive malls and the clear skies of the desert just a short drive away, Mecca evenings have the potential to be truly unforgettable.
Here are a few of our favourite things to do in Mecca after dark…
1. Eat al fresco
If you don’t think this is a big deal, you’ve clearly never been to Saudi before. Mecca is hot – almost unbearably so in the summer months. If you aren’t used to temperatures upwards of 40C, you will be grateful for the icy blast of air conditioning that greets you in every restaurant – and there’s no way that you will consider eating outside. Until the evening.
A couple of hours after sundown, the temperature becomes a lot more tolerable, and a few tables and chairs will start to emerge in front of the more popular cafes and fast food haunts. At some of the higher-end restaurants, you may even find air-conditioned porch areas, so you can sit outside without working up a sweat!
2. Go shopping
Most pilgrims are too busy during the day to browse the shops and pick up souvenirs for their loved ones back home. Luckily, the city’s malls and markets stay open until around midnight, so you can while away your evening in the vast Makkah Mall, or search for the perfect Koran or abaya in the city’s souks.
3. Escape to the desert
It’s easy to forget that the bustling and historic city of Mecca is surrounded by vast swathes of empty desert. But drive east for around 30 minutes and you will find yourself alone under the stars.
Of course, it’s not a great idea to make this journey alone, but there are plenty of expert tour guides who can escort you into the desert safely and help you to experience the traditional Bedouin lifestyle.