• Explore the higher-end shops of the Abraj al-Bait complex, right near the Conrad • Find stylish contemporary takes on traditional items The Great Mosque is surrounded by shopping malls featuring familiar brands and chains, but you didn’t come all this way to stock up on Sephora products, did you? Instead, do a targeted loop through the shopping centers in the Abraj al-Bait mall complex—home to the famous Makkah Royal Clock Tower skyscraper, and just steps from the Conrad—to seek out the highest-grade religious-themed souvenirs. Reem sells tasbih—prayer beads—from its plush showroom; My Fair Lady has quality abayas and scarves at reasonable prices; Lomar is where dapper Saudi men buy tailored thawbs; the Bin Dawood grocery store carries a wide range of dates; and Abdul Samad al-Qurashi stocks high-end scents in agarwood and amber (just be prepared for the price: some offerings cost upwards of $2,000 USD an ounce). If you’re looking for something more artistic and cutting-edge, Makkah-based design outfit Dhuraibah sells contemporary takes on traditional items: think minimalist prayer rugs, colorful Pop Art–inspired illustrations of the Kaaba, and Korans sheathed in jackets adorned with modern calligraphy. All of these shops are located in the Makkah Royal Clock Tower complex, along the perimeter of the Great Mosque, about a five-minute walk from the Conrad Makkah. BIN DAWOOD: Abraj al-Bait, ground floor; +966-12-571-9218; bindawood.com MY FAIR LADY: Abraj al-Bait, 2nd floor LOMAR: Abraj al-Bait, 11th floor; facebook.com/lomarthobe REEM: Abraj al-Bait, 11th floor ABDUL SAMAD AL-QURASHI: Abraj al-Bait, ground floor; store.asqgrp.com DHURAIBAH: Abraj al-Bait, 11th floor; +966-12-571-9157; duraibah.com
• Book a private appointment at the Conrad with a renowned Saudi jewelry designer • Browse exquisite pieces inspired by kiswah calligraphy and the sacred Black Stone For a truly unique memento to mark your journey, ask the Conrad concierge to summon Saudi jewelry designer Wessam Hassanin for a private visit. He’ll arrive at the hotel with a range of his stunning pieces inspired by the kiswah (the black cloth covering the Kaaba): exquisite necklaces, cufflinks, and magnets embossed in the kiswah’s signature calligraphy motifs or modeled after the sacred Black Stone. Hassanin has even designed a remarkable pendant incorporating a piece of actual kiswah cloth, delicately framed in gold. The designer is also an official photographer for the two Holy Mosques, which means he has an archive of breathtaking color prints on offer as well. He’ll bring his wares straight to the lobby or your suite, along with a credit card machine, so you can browse and purchase from the comfort of your room. Contact the Conrad concierge to arrange a private hotel visit by Wessam Hassanin.
Discover the impressive depth and variety of Makkah’s culinary scene Sample exotic flavors from across the globe on a progressive food tour Indulge in South Asian sweets from an 80-year-old, family-run institution Come mealtime, most pilgrims settle for the familiar comforts of KFC, Domino’s, or McDonald’s. Don’t be like them. For centuries, Saudi Arabia’s Hejaz province has been a gathering place for Muslims from all reaches of the world, so Makkah has spawned an impressively cosmopolitan food culture, incorporating dishes and flavors from East and South Asia, Africa, and beyond. Sample the best offerings on a self-guided tasting tour through the neighborhoods spread out beyond the mosque. Al-Bani, in Ash Shawqiyyah, is a local mainstay that frequently caters weddings around the city; it’s lauded for Makkah-style classics like saliq, a delectable, porridge-like dish wherein rice is cooked with both chicken broth and fresh cream, and kuzi, rice and noodles paired with chicken or lamb. Abu Yasser is known for African-inspired dishes like the beloved sereh, steak dusted in flour and grilled over flame. Abu Zaid is worth a stop for a Yemen-style murtabak, a savory flatbread filled with leeks, eggs, and spice-scented ground beef. The new Khan Baba does a brisk trade in Indo-Saudi “fusion” shawarmas, stuffed with biryani or chicken tikka masala and wrapped in piping-hot roti-style breads. End your trek on a sweet note at Halawani, a Makkah institution that’s still in the same family after more than 80 years; the owners migrated here from India and brought recipes for desserts like milk-and-cardamom labania and fried laddoo (balls of sweetened chickpea flour). Take a mixed platter home for 60 riyals per kilo. These restaurants are all within 30 minutes from the Conrad by car, and some are difficult to find, so ask the concierge to plot them on a map and give directions to your taxi or Uber driver. Alternatively, the hotel can arrange a private food tour with a local chef and dining expert. AL-BANI: Ash Shawqiyy
Travel back to the 1930s and see Makkah’s forgotten past come to life Explore inventive re-creations of old-time blacksmiths, cobblers, and grocers Sample delicacies from across the Muslim world Historic sites around the Great Mosque have been overrun by centuries of expansion and commercialization, so it can be difficult to find authentic glimpses of Makkah’s past. Many Saudis openly lament that fact; local businessman Adel Hafez did something about it. Hafez converted a tract of land in the al-Zahir district into Harrat Makkawiyyah, an inspired reimagining of how Makkah looked in the 1930’s, and Hafez opens the site to the public several times a year for colorful throwback carnivals. You’ll find a warren of traditional Makkah-style houses and shop fronts for blacksmiths, grocers, cobblers—even a retro photography studio. To add to the authentic look and feel, the entire affair is decked out with antiques from Hafez’s family collection, from a 1900s movie projector to a vintage icebox. In the courtyard, dozens of stalls sell food from Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, India, Thailand, and Egypt—a microcosm of the Muslim diaspora that’s congregated in Makkah for more than a millennium. Harrat Makkawiyyah is a 15-minute drive northwest of the Conrad. Ask the concierge if it’s running during your visit; the carnival usually operates for a month at a time during Ramadan, the hajj, and over school vacations, usually from 5 p.m. to midnight each evening. HARRAT MAKKAWIYYAH: Alnozha St., opposite al-Diyafah Mall, al-Zahir
Take a day trip to dynamic Jeddah, “the bride of the Red Sea” Stroll the atmospheric al-Balad quarter and shop in a traditional souk Tour historic mansions for a window into Jeddah life from the 1600s to 1800s All international visitors to Makkah transit through Jeddah, a glitteringly cosmopolitan city (Saudi’s second-largest after Riyadh) that unfolds along the shores of the Red Sea. It’s only an hour-long drive between the two cities, so a day trip from the Conrad Makkah to explore the best of Jeddah can be easily arranged by the concierge. Head first to al-Balad, Jeddah’s atmospheric old quarter, where well-preserved, whitewashed buildings with signature brown-and-green wooden shutters conjure a bygone age. Definitely pay a visit to the fascinating Nassif House (aka Biet Nassif), a gorgeous, 100-plus-room mansion constructed in the 1870s for the governor of Jeddah, whose family owned the property for nearly a century. It’s now a museum, though opening hours are erratic (ask the concierge to check before you go). The resident docent will show you the mansion’s curious staircases, purportedly designed to accommodate camels, which carried goods to the upper stories. Nearby, the 400-year-old al-Matbouli house is more regularly open to visitors, and offers a window into traditional home life in Old Jeddah. Spend some time getting lost in al-Balad’s quiet, evocative side streets, then hit the souks to bargain for scarves, dishdashas, incense, and more. After digging deep into Jeddah’s past, slip back into the present day at the chic Café Bateel, a contemporary Arabic teahouse operated by a well-known Saudi brand of dates (whose distinctive label you’ll recognize by now from your travels). Here, fusion pastries like za’atar-laced croissants, a Khidri-date opera cake, and dhibs (date syrup) mille-feuille are all popular, but the signature dessert is the “Bateel Sticky Toffee Pudding,” a brilliant riff on the British classic that incorporates a date-pudding base and tangy yogurt ice cream. It’s the perfect cap-off t