Definition: Umrah is sometimes known as the "lesser pilgrimage," in comparison to the annual Hajj pilgrimage of Islam. It is a visit one makes to the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, outside of the designated Hajj pilgrimage dates. The word "umrah" means to visit an important place.
During the Umrah, some of the same pilgrimage rites are performed:
• Wearing of the ihram
• Tawaf - walking seven times around the Ka'aba
• Sa'y - Running between the hills of Safa and Marwa
• Shaving or clipping of the hair
However, the other steps of Hajj are not done during Umrah. Therefore, performing Umrah does not meet the requirements of Hajj and doesn't replace one's obligation to perform Hajj. The Umrah is recommended but not required in Islam.
The government of Saudi Arabia manages the logistics of visitors coming for both Hajj and Umrah. The Umrah also requires a visa and travel arrangements through an authorized Hajj/Umrah service provider. There is no set time for Umrah; it can be done at any time of year. Several million Muslims prefer to do Umrah during the month of Ramadan each year.