Makkah (Mecca)

Makkah (Mecca)

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Mecca is Islam's holiest city and every devout Muslim is supposed to visit it at least once in their life, on the pilgrimage known as hajj. As a result the city receives 2 million of Muslims every year during Zuul-Hijja, the last month of the Muslim calendar, most of whom come to Saudi Arabia solely for the hajj and don't visit any other places in the country. Because the rewards of the hajj include the forgiving of all past sins, most devotees leave the trip until they are old, placing huge strains on the Saudi health system.

According to tradition, Mecca was the place where Mohammed was born in the 6th century AD and where he began preaching. Mohammed returned to the city for his final pilgrimage.

Mecca is centered on the Grand Mosque, which hold the sacred Zamzam well. In the mosque's huge central courtyard is the Kabah (Kaaba), the large black monolith which is the direction towards which all Muslims in the world orient their prayer mats. The Kabah houses the rose stone, believed to be a meteorite, which the faithful try to touch as they circumambulate the Kabah. According to tradition, the Kaaba was built by Adam and later reconstructed by Abraham and his son, as a replica of God's house in heaven.

According to tradition Mohammed received his first revelation at the age of 40 from the Angel Gabriel and the revelations continued for the rest of his life. They were written down in the Qur'an (Koran, literally 'recitation'), which is the foundation of Islam. Mohammed started teaching people about his revelations, but his teachings were not a great success and in 622 he had to flee Mecca after he upset the local leaders with his teachings. In other parts of Arabia he was more successful and later he was able to return to Mecca.

Mecca and the nearby holy sites can not be visited by non-Muslims and there are countless checkpoints along the roads to the city to stop non-Muslims from entering.

There are numerous hotels and restaurants in Mecca to cater for the annual influx of pilgrims. Mecca is 65 km inland from Jiddah and 790 km southwest of Riyadh.


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