Mecca is a city in Saudi Arabia. Also spelled Makkah, it is the holiest pilgrimage site in Islam. The city covers 850 sq km (328 sq mi) and has a population of 1.7 million people (2011 estimate). Mecca is located 73 km (45 mi) inland from Jeddah.
The earliest mention of Mecca was found in the writings of Ptolemy (AD 90-168), where a city called Macoraba was mentioned. Whether this is related to Mecca is open to debate. By the 5th century AD, the Kaaba has become a place of worship. The area was ruled by the Quraysh tribe who were skilled in trades.
The Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca in AD 570, and the city has since been closely linked to the birth and propagation of Islam. Muhammad is said to have begun receiving revalations from God through the Archangel Gabriel in 610 AD in the mountain caves of Hira near Mecca.
Mecca has never served as a capital of any Islamic states, but Muslim rulers have continuously contributed to its upkeep. In AD 930 the city was attacked and sacked by the Qarmatians, a Muslim sect led by Abu-Tahir Al-Jannabi. In 1349 it was hit by the Black Death.
Mecca was under the Ottoman Empire from 1517. On a local level, it was ruled by the Sharif, who enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. It slipped out of Ottoman control in 1803, when it was captured by the First Saudi State, and ruled by it till 1813. In 1818 a Second Saudi State emerged to rule Mecca until 1891, when it once again returned to Ottoman rule.
During the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was aligned with Germany against Britain. However, the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, revolted against his Ottoman superiors. He captured Mecca in the Battle of Mecca of 1916, and established the Kingdom of Hejaz, which had only two kings, himself ruling from 1916 to 1924, and his eldest son Ali bin Hussein, who ruled for just over a year, from 1924 to 1925, before being defeated by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, who established the Third Saudi State, which is today known as Saudi Arabia.
Going to Mecca
Being the holiest city of Islam, Mecca is strictly off limits to non-Muslims. Non-Muslims caught entering Mecca are immediately deported from the country. The closest that non-Muslims can go is the Mecca Bus Terminal located outside city limits.
Most visitors to Mecca come to perform the Hajj. This is conducted during the month of Dhul Hijjah. If the trip is conducted outside the pilgrimage month, it is known as Umrah.
Special visas are issued by the Saudi government for pilgrimage trips which are arranged by specialist agencies. As with elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, women going on a Hajj pilgrimage must travel in the company of a male guardian unless they are traveling in a group, over 45 years of age, and have their guardian's signed consent.
The King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah has a special Hajj Terminal served mostly by charter flights. It becomes busy on Hajj seasons. A modern multi-lane expressway connects Jeddah with Mecca. Despite its size, the expressway becomes congested during pilgrimage season.
Accommodation in Saudi Arabia
Hotels in Saudi Arabia Helping you compare hotel room rates in Saudi Arabia from different online booking sites.