Destination Guide

The Travel Well Guide

Mecca

City: N/A       State: Makkah Province       Country: Saudi Arabia
Mecca is a city in Saudi Arabia. Home to the Masjid al-Haram, it is the holiest city in Islam and plays an important role in the faith. As of 2008 the annual Hajj pilgrimage attracts two to three million pilgrims to the city, and presents both opportunities for the city's economy, and challenges for its infrastructure. Culturally, the city is modern, cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse.Islamic tradition attributes the beginning of Mecca to Ishmael's descendants. In the 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad proclaimed Islam in the city, by then an important trading center, and the city played an important role in the early history of Islam. After 966, Mecca was led by local sharifs, until 1924, when it came under the rule of the Saudis.[7] In its modern period, Mecca has seen a great expansion in size and infrastructure.The city is centred round Masjid al-Haram, the largest mosque in the world, first built in the 7th century but many times modified, demolished, rebuilt and extended so that it now accommodates up to 820,000 worshippers. It houses the Ka'ba, a huge, sacred granite box, said to have been built, by Ibrahim (Abraham), and the holy Black-Stone - believed to have fallen from heaven at the time of Adam and Eve.The area of the old city immediately around the mosque has been razed in order to widen the streets after several tragic incidents of pilgrims being crushed to death during the Hajj stampede. The houses that remain are mostly closely built two- or three-storeyed dwellings built of local stone, with a few slums where pilgrims too poor to return home have settled. The city is economically dependent on the pilgrim trade. In recent years, it has expanded to accommodate the ever-growing number of visitors (up to 4 million at Hajj) and is now ringed by a freeway with high rise buildings and shopping malls.There are only two ways to get to see Mecca - be a Muslim or risk death. In the 19th century, Sir Richard Burton, the renowned Victorian orientalist, let his curiosity get the better of him and famously slipped into the city disguised as an Afghani. It is not sensible to emulate this feat, unless you can recite the salah (prayers) - road checks ensure that any visitors are legitimate pilgrims.

Climate | When to Visit

November to February is the pleasantest time of year in Saudi Arabia, for Muslims to make Umrah or go on Hajj.
Visit during: November to February

Directions | How to Reach

Mecca has only the small Mecca East Airport with no airline service, so most pilgrims access the city through the Hajj terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jedda or the Jeddah Seaport, both of which are in Jeddah.

miscellaneous | Important Information

Mecca is inaccessible to non-muslims.

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