The biggest miqat (pilgrim station) complex in Saudi Arabia, this fort-like mosque rises up like a North African kasbah on the southwestern edge of Medina, marking the point at which would-be pilgrims have to assume the state of ihram (purity) ahead of making their journey south to Al Masjid Al Haram and the Kaaba in Mecca. This stunning world-class mosque has almost 2000 showers, toilets and ablution stations integrated into the perimeter wall, which is styled like an ancient city wall.
The North African design of the mosque integrates a square, winding minaret and a green, open courtyard in the centre. Gardens of palms, with rows of drinking fountains and pleasant seating areas, create a serene space amid the chaos as coachload after coachload of pilgrims arrive throughout the day and night. It is here they change out of their normal clothes and into their outfits to enter ihram. For women, there are no prescribed outfits, so normal mosque attire is observed. However, all men must wrap themselves in the iconic two white pieces of unstitched cotton.
The complex has a huge car park capable of holding around a hundred coaches. There's also a small fire station, ambulance hub and police station, as well as a seasonal health centre and information point. It sits surrounded by a few basic restaurants and food huts, as well as vendors of cheap pilgrim items such as money belts. This is one of five miqats in the country.