The Heart of Islam: Mecca
Mecca is situated on the west of the Arabian Peninsula. It is mentioned in the Kur'an as "the mother of the all cities". It is in the historical region called Hedjaz. It is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad. The history of the city dates back to 2000 BC. It is home to the Kaaba. It is among the largest cities of Saudi Arabia together with Riyadh and Jeddah.
It has an important place in Turkish history. Mecca came under the domination of the Ottoman Empire during the Hedjaz campaing of Yavuz Sultan Selim in 1517. The city passed into other hands for many times in the history. Today the population is approximately 2 million with majority of Arabs. It is one of the most active places for religion tourism. The city economy highly depends on visitors coming for the Hajj and the Umrah. The weather is hot during the summer and warm during the winter. Every year, millions of hadji and tourists come to Mecca via the airport in Jeddah.
Places to Visit in Mecca
Most of the touristic attractions in the city are related to the history of Islam. First of these is the Kaaba, the home of Allah. It is believed to be descended from the sky and built by prophet Abraham and his son Ismael. Muslims face the direction of the Kaaba while praying. During Hajj, it is visited by millions. By circumambulating the Kaaba, people fulfull their religious duty. The Great Mosque of Mecca is situated around the Kaaba. It is a sanctuary where approximately 1 million people pray there together.
Jabal al-Nour is a mountain situated on the road to Mina. It is the highest point of Mecca which is a quite flat city. Jabal al-Nour is home to the cave of Hira, a very important place for Muslims. It is told that prophet Muhammad used to retreat there and pray. When the prophet was 40, the first revelation occurred in the cave of Hira. It is 5 km away from the city and could be visited by climbing the stairs. Another cave in the city is where prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr stayed, the cave of Thawr. The view is worth climbing.
Al-Safa and Al-Marwah are must-visit places during the Hajj and the Umrah. Sa'y, going between the two hills are among the principles of the Hajj. Another place to be visited for fulfilling the duty of Hajj is the Mount Arafat. The name comes from the place where Adam and Eve was believed to meet after descending from the heaven. The day this event occurred is called Arefe and the place is called Arafat. During the Hajj, on the day of Arefe, Muslims pause here.
The well of zamzam should be visited. The source of the water is unknown. But due to its uniqueness, tourists are allowed to take a certain amount to planes with themselves. There is also Mina and Muzdelifah. Mina is the place where stoning the devil takes place and people are highly curious about the place.
The palace on the upper side of the Kaaba is very important for Muslims and the history of Islam. It is a very gorgeous structure. Ajyad Fortress, build by Ottomans, was replaced by Zem Zem Towers a relatively new building and attracted opposition from many. The lower floors of the building are used by businesses and the upper floors are used as time sharing property.
Considering the Hajj and the Umrah, Mecca has a very specific concept of tourism shaped around religion. The places to be visited are at the same time places of prayer. Together with that, the city offers different means of accommodation, from hotels to time sharing property. The duration of the visits shouldn't exceed the limits determined by the Saudi King. Maximum 15 days of stay is allowed. Mecca, with its historical and natural structure is a must-see city in Saudi Arabia.