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Mecca is a city in the Hejaz in Saudi Arabia. It is the capital of that kingdom's Makkah Region. The city is located 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of 277 m (909 ft) above sea level. Its resident population in 2012 was roughly 2 million, although visitors more than triple this number every year during the hajj ("pilgrimage") period held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah.
As the birthplace of Muhammad and the site of Muhammad's first revelation of the Quran (specifically, a cave 3 km (2 mi) from Mecca), Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and a pilgrimage to it known as the Hajj is obligatory for all able Muslims. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, by majority description Islam's holiest site, as well as being the direction of Muslim prayer. Mecca was long ruled by Muhammad's descendants, the sharifs, acting either as independent rulers or as vassals to larger polities. It was conquered by Ibn Saud in 1925. In its modern period, Mecca has seen tremendous expansion in size and infrastructure, home to structures such as the Abraj Al Bait, also known as the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, the world's third tallest building and the building with the third largest amount of floor area. During this expansion, Mecca has lost some historical structures and archaeological sites, such as the Ajyad Fortress. Today, more than 15 million Muslims visit Mecca annually, including several million during the few days of the Hajj. As a result, Mecca has become one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the Muslim world, despite the fact that non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the city.
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone AST (UTC+3)|
• Summer (DST) AST (UTC+3)
|AREA :||• City 760 km2 (290 sq mi)|
• Urban 850 km2 (330 sq mi)
• Metro 1,200 km2 (500 sq mi)
|ELEVATION :||277 m (909 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||21°25′N 39°49′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 58%|
• Female: 42%
|AREA CODE :||12|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||(+966) 12|
Once a dusty desert town, Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, is today the real Mecca for Muslims. Other than being the foremost place of pilgrimage for Muslims worldwide, it is the cultural capital of the Islamic world and a true melting pot of worldwide Muslims. Mecca or Makkah, the holiest city in Islam, is the place where the Prophet Muhammad was born and raised, and is believed by Muslims to have received the first revelations of the Quran. And this is where the Kaaba is — in the centre of Islam's most sacred mosque, Masjid al-Haram, which is the direction that all Muslims from all over the world face when performing Islamic ritualistic prayer (salat). Masjid al-Haram or The Grand and the Sacred Mosque, the largest mosque in the world, is visited by millions of Muslims throughout the year, especially during the last month of the Islamic calendar, to perform Hajj, the pilgrimage which is a mandatory religious duty for every Muslim who can afford it.
Muslims believe that the history of Mecca goes back to Abraham (Ibrahim) who built the Kaaba with the help of his eldest son Ishmael around 2000 BCE. In 570 CE, Muhammad was born in Mecca. Since those days, Mecca's history and identity has been inextricably linked with Islam.
According to Muslim traditions, in 610, it was in Mecca (inside the Hira cave on the mountain of Jabal al-Nour) where Muhammad the age of 40 received his first revelation from Allah, through the Angel Gabriel. Muhammad then begin preaching. In 622, Muhammad left Mecca for Yathrib (now called Medina) for fear of being assassinated by the local Quraysh ruling clan, who had declined to accept Muhammad and his beliefs and started persecuting followers of Islam. As Muhammad migrated to Medina and settled there, several armed conflicts followed between followers of Muhammad and local tribes of Mecca, particularly one during which the followers of Muhammad attempted to return to Mecca in 628 for pilgrimage but weren't allowed to enter the city. A peace treaty was eventually signed that allowed followers of Muhammad to return to Mecca. In 629, Muhammad along with thousands of his followers migrated back to Mecca from Medina (where he had lived for 13 years) for a Hajj, known as the first pilgrimage. According to Muslims, the peace treaty was to also include ceasefire for 10 years but after 2 years, the Quraysh violated the truce by slaughtering a group of Muslims. Muhammad and his followers, companions and allies now much stronger in number, so instead of fighting back, they simply marched across the city of Mecca and thereby triggered the surrender of the Quraysh of Mecca. Eventually, Muhammad Islamicized the city and made it the center of Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Mecca has been ruled by various dynasties over the last 1500 years. Starting in 1517 CE, with only one short interruption, Mecca and the rest of the Hejaz were under the control and stewardship of the Ottoman Turks and — since the 10th century — the local religious and temporal leadership of the Hashemite Emirs, who were relocated by the British to serve as the rulers of Transjordan and Iraq in the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottomans in World War I. In 1924, Mecca was conquered by the Saud family of modern-day Saudi Arabia following a short battle.
During the Hajj season in 1979, hundreds of extremist insurgents seized the Grand Mosque and called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family and their government who, according to them, were not pure Muslims. The siege lasted two weeks, until the armed forces of Pakistan and France intervened to assist the Saudi authorities.
There has been considerable non-violent dissension between the Saudis and others over their destruction of numerous historic buildings in Mecca, including a diplomatic protest from Turkey over the demolition in 2002 of a centuries-old Ottoman fort, to make way for the Abraj Al Bait Towers (which, however, do have their own impressiveness). The Saudis operate under a very strictly iconoclastic interpretation of Islam (Salafism, also called Wahhabism by many non-Salafists), and they prefer to demolish the home of any honored figure in Islam, including the Prophet Muhammad's birth house which also stood in Mecca until recently, to prevent people from making pilgrimages to pay their respects at these houses, an action which the Saud family and local religious authorities consider tantamount to idolatry.
Mecca features a hot desert climate. Like most Saudi Arabian cities, Mecca retains warm to hot temperatures even in winter, which can range from 18 °C (64 °F) at night to 30 °C (86 °F) in the afternoon. Summer temperatures are extremely hot and break the 40 °C (104 °F) mark in the afternoon dropping to 30 °C (86 °F) in the evening. Rain usually falls in Mecca in small amounts scattered between November and January.
Climate data for Mecca
|Record high °C (°F)||37.4|
|Average high °C (°F)||30.5|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||24.0|
|Average low °C (°F)||18.8|
|Record low °C (°F)||11.0|
|Source #1: Jeddah Regional Climate Center|
|Source #2: Deutscher Wetterdienst|
Mecca is at an elevation of 277 m (909 ft) above sea level, and approximately 80 km (50 mi) inland from the Red Sea. Central Mecca lies in a corridor between mountains, which is often called the "Hollow of Mecca." The area contains the valley of Al Taneem, the Valley of Bakkah and the valley of Abqar. This mountainous location has defined the contemporary expansion of the city. The city centers on the Masjid al-Haram area, whose elevation is lower than most of the city. The area around the mosque comprises the old city. The main avenues are Al-Mudda'ah and Sūq al-Layl to the north of the mosque, and As-Sūg Assaghīr to the south. As the Saudis expanded the Grand Mosque in the center of the city, where there were once hundreds of houses are now replaced with wide avenues and city squares. Traditional homes are built of local rock and are generally two to three stories. The total area of Mecca today stands over 1,200 km2 (460 sq mi).
In pre-modern Mecca, the city exploited a few chief sources of water. The first were local wells, such as the Zamzam Well, that produced generally brackish water. The second source was the spring of Ayn Zubayda. The sources of this spring are the mountains of J̲abal Saʿd (Jabal Sa'd) and Jabal Kabkāb, which lie a few kilometers east of Jabal Arafa or about 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Mecca. Water was transported from it using underground channels. A very sporadic third source was rainfall which was stored by the people in small reservoirs or cisterns. The rainfall, scant as it is, also presents the threat of flooding and has been a danger since earliest times. According to Al-Kurdī, there had been 89 historic floods by 1965, including several in the Saudi period. In the last century the most severe one occurred in 1942. Since then, dams have been constructed to ameliorate the problem.
The Meccan economy has been heavily dependent on the annual pilgrimage. As one academic put it, "[Meccans] have no means of earning a living but by serving the hajjis." Income generated from the Hajj, in fact, not only powers the Meccan economy but has historically had far reaching effects on the economy of the entire Arabian Peninsula. The income was generated in a number of ways. One method was taxing the pilgrims. Taxes especially increased during the Great Depression, and many of these taxes existed as late as 1972. Another way the Hajj generates income is through services to pilgrims. For example, the Saudi national airline, Saudia, generates 12% of its income from the pilgrimage. Fares paid by pilgrims to reach Mecca by land also generate income; as do the hotels and lodging companies that house them.
The city takes in more than $100 million, while the Saudi government spends about $50 million on services for the Hajj. There are some industries and factories in the city, but Mecca no longer plays a major role in Saudi Arabia's economy, which is mainly based on oil exports. The few industries operating in Mecca include textiles, furniture, and utensils. The majority of the economy is service-oriented.
Nevertheless, many industries have been set up in Mecca. Various types of enterprises that have existed since 1970: corrugated iron manufacturing, copper smithies, carpentry shops, upholstering establishments, vegetable oil extraction plants, sweets manufacturies, flour mills, bakeries, poultry farms, frozen food importing, photography processing, secretarial establishments, ice factories, bottling plants for soft drinks, barber shops, book shops, travel agencies and banks.
The city has grown substantially in the 20th and 21st centuries, as the convenience and affordability of jet travel has increased the number of pilgrims participating in the Hajj. Thousands of Saudis are employed year-round to oversee the Hajj and staff the hotels and shops that cater to pilgrims; these workers in turn have increased the demand for housing and services. The city is now ringed by freeways, and contains shopping malls and skyscrapers.
- Al Adl
- Al Faisaliyyah
- Al Gemmezah
- Al Ghassalah
- Al Hindawiyyah
- Al Iskan
- Al Khalediya
- Al Maabda
- Al Muaisem
- Al Nuzha
- Al Rasaifah
- Al Shoqiyah
- Al Shubaikah
- Al Sulaimaniyyah
- Al Tundobawi
- Al Utaibiyyah
- Al Zahir
- Al Zahra
- Jabal Al Nour
- Shar Mansur
- Suq Al Lail
Prices in Mecca
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$25.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.12|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$2.75|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$0.55|
38 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
111 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Unless you're a national of Saudi Arabia or neighbouring GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates), everyone requires visa to enter Saudi Arabia. The diplomatic missions of Saudi Arabia issue special visas for those making the pilgrimage to Mecca, either Hajj or Umrah. Most pilgrims opt to use a specialist travel agency, which will handle the considerable paperwork for them. As usual in Saudi Arabia, women must travel together with a male guardian (Mahram), unless they are over 45, travelling with a group and have their guardian's signed consent.
Hajj visas are allocated on a quota system, based on the number of Muslims in a country. In some cases, those who have previously done Hajj have had additional restrictions placed on their next Hajj, in an effort to discourage overcrowding while still accommodating those who have not yet made the pilgrimage. Umrah visas can be obtained at any time of the year except during the Hajj season. If the applicant is not a national of a Muslim-majority country or was not born a Muslim, s/he must present a certificate notarized by an Islamic center testifying that s/he is a Muslim. Usually, your mosque will be able to arrange this or at least point the way.
King Abdulaziz International Airport , in Jeddah is the gateway to Mecca. All regional airliners serve the airport throughout the year. The same airport can be used when coming for Umrah.
The Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport is used only during the Hajj season, and is served mostly by charter flights arranged by regional commercial airliners, although there are some scheduled services as well.
Another option is Ta’if Regional Airport in Taif which can also be used to get into Mecca; however only a few airlines operate here, particularly those of neighboring Gulf countries.
There is an excellent modern multi-lane highway from Jeddah named Highway # 40. The distance is around 100km and the journey takes an hour. During the Hajj pilgrimage season it is jammed with buses full of pilgrims. At any other time, traffic is extremely light for the size of the road.
A few miles outside of Mecca, there is a cutoff referred to as the "Christian bypass". Turn along this highway to drive another 50 miles out of the way to reach the lovely mountain town of Taif. Taif, at 5000 feet elevation, was the former summer palace of the Saudi Kings. If you remain on the main highway, there is a police checkpoint just after the exit, where non-Muslims are kept out of the holy city.
Taxis can be hailed anywhere in Jeddah for Mecca around SR250 during normal season or about SR 350 during Hajj and winters. At Jeddah Airport, you can also share a taxi with other pilgrims if you want to which would half the trip charges per person.
SAPTCO runs services to Mecca from throughout the country, although most pilgrims when coming for Umrah or Hajj, arrive on privately chartered buses or cars from Jeddah.
There are two terminals: the main terminal outside city limits is open to all, but the city center terminal at the Haram al Sharif, used mainly by buses to Jeddah, is restricted to Muslims only. One way trip cost SR15 and trip takes 1 hour. Buses leave throughout the day after interval time of 1-2 hours starting from early in the morning at 6 until midnight at 12.
Transportation - Get Around
Local buses, taxis, and micro-buses are widely available in Mecca and are inexpensive. The 18 km (11 mi) Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro opened in November 2010. A total of 5 metro lines are planned to carry pilgrims to the religious sites.
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While in Mecca, many pilgrims purchase trinkets to remember their time and souvenirs to bring back to family and friends. Zamzam water is available free. It is consumed in Mecca and brought home as a souvenir.
Other items to buy in and around Mecca are: Prayer mats and hats, prayer beads and perfume.
There are many types of food from all over the world available in Mecca, from the Middle Eastern Arab food to Southeast Asian food. There are also American fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dunkin Donuts. No type of pork, ham or any part of the pig is served in Saudi Arabia as forbidden by Islamic Law.
Coffe & Drink
Zamzam Water- holy water from the Zamzam spring in Masjid al Haram believed to be divinely blessed is preferred among pilgrims to Mecca.
There are many tea shops that serve tea and cookies. There are also many juice vendors right outside the Mosque, who sell apple, mango and strawberry juices for 1 SAR.
As this is Saudi Arabia, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly forbidden; the local Saudis of Mecca (somewhat ironically) do have a reputation for being big drinkers in private, but don't expect to be invited to the private parties where they drink.
Sights & Landmarks
- Masjid al-Haram (Sacred Mosque). The holiest site in Mecca and Islam is Grand Mosque. The massive mosque is the world's largest mosque and can accommodate up to 2 million people at once. The mosque has been continuously expanded and still going through major expansion and renovation. This mosque is the focal point of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
- Kaaba. At the center of the grand mosque is Kaaba which is according to Muslim traditions, have been built by Prophet Abraham himself and his son, Prophet Ishmael. Covered in black cloth, it is circled seven times by Muslim pilgrims and to which Muslims face in the direction while performing Islamic prayers Salat. Black Stone set intact into the Kaaba's eastern cornerstone wall by Muhammad himself is an Islamic relic which, according to Muslim tradition, dates back to the time of Adam and Eve. Many Muslim pilgrims while doing Tawaf try to kiss and touch the sacred stone; however, this usually requires a lot of effort.
- Maqaam-e-Ibrahim. Next to Kaaba is a crystal dome called Maqaam-e-Ibrahim, which contains a rock that is believed to have an imprint of Abraham's foot. Traditions held that Abraham while constructing the high walls of Kaaba stood on the rock which miraculously rose up and let Abraham continue building.
- Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. These were the two small hills now well transformed into long galleries which are well-constructed with marble floor and equipped with air-conditions. Muslim traditions held that Hagar, wife of Abraham, ran back and forth between these two hills in search of water of her son Ismail. It is believed that she first climbed the hill of Al-Safa and later Al-Marwah. Today Muslim perform ritual walking here called Sa'ee involves walking between the two hills seven times. Each trip requires approximately 300m of walking and roughly 2.1km in total.
- Cave of Hira (Ghaar-e-Hira), Jabal Al Noor (3 kilometres from Mecca). The cave of Hira is an important site, since atop the mountain locally known as Jabal Al Noor is where Muslims believe Muhammed first had the Quran revealed to him from Allah through the angel Jebril. Pilgrims often climb the cave which stood at a height of 270m to see the place where Muhammad is believed to have received the first revelation of the Quran.
- Cave Thawr (Ghaar-e-Thawr), Jabal Thawr. This is the cave in which Prophet Muhammed hid in as he made departure to Yathrib (now Medina) from Mecca while being pursued by Quraish of Mecca who were planning to harm him. According to traditions, once Muhammad and his companion made entrance into the cave, the entrance was blocked by a spider which had cast a web to cover it and gave the impression to members of Quraish that no one has made entrance inside the cave since a long time thus saved life of Muhammad. Today, many pilgrims climb up the 1,405m high mountan to see the cave.
- Jannat al-Mu'alla. This is the cemetery in which companions and relatives of Prophet Muhammed are buried, including his first wife, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great great-grandfather.
- Al-Haramain Museum (متحف الحرم شریف). This museum has a lot of historical artifacts from different eras.
- Abraj Al Bait (Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel) (next to Grand Mosque). This 601m megatall building has become a modern symbol of Mecca. It is the third tallest building in the world and incorporates the world's largest clock face. The building house a five star hotel, a large prayer area capable of accommodating 10,000 people, a 5-story grand shopping mall, and numerous eateries.
- Mina. Mina is a neighborhood of Mecca. It has the nick name of Tent City, as there are hundred of thousands of air-conditioned tents in the area, which act as temporary accommodations for pilgrims during Hajj time. The pedestrian-only Jamaraat Bridge, where the symbolic ritual of Stoning of the Devil is done, is located here.
- Hill of Arafat (Jabal Rahma). 70m (230 ft) high Hill of Arafat is a granite hill in the outskirts of Mecca is the site where Prophet Muhammad stood and delivered the Farewell Sermon to the Muslims during the last day of his life. During Hajj, pilgrims spend the whole day on and around this hill doing prayers.
Things to do
- Hike the Mountains of Mecca
- Visit Ghar Hira, where the first verse of the Quran was revealed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
- Pray and read the Quran in the Masjid al Haram, offcourse if you're Muslim.
- Shopping in the city is widely available. Bargaining is always an option when shopping locally.
Safety in Mecca
Despite strict crowd control measures, overcrowding and stampedes are major hazards during the month of the Hajj, killing dozens of people. Mina, Jamrat and the bridges leading to them are known to be particularly dangerous, although steps have been taken to alleviate this: there are now four parallel bridges and the route is now unidirectional.
During the Hajj, pickpockets are not uncommon. Avoid having any valuables on your person when traversing through the crowds. In other words, be on the safe side and don't take chances.