Mecca, also transliterated as Makkah, is a city in the Hejaz and the capital of Makkah Province in Saudi Arabia. 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 Hajj period held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah.
As the birthplace of Muhammad and a site of Muhammad's first revelation of the Quran (the site in specificity being a cave 3.2 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 absorbed into Saudi Arabia 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 largest amount of floor area. Due to 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.
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- The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive. In the holy city of Mecca, violence of any kind was forbidden. From the moment they left home, pilgrims were not permitted to carry weapons, to swat an insect or speak an angry word, a discipline that introduced them to a new way of living. At a climactic moment of his prophetic career, Muhammad drew on this tradition.
- The hajj is one of the five essential practices of Islam; when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims ritually act out the central principles of their faith.
- Karen Armstrong, "Prejudices about Islam will be shaken by this show". theguardian.com. 22 January 2012.
- Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors. I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca. ...There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.
- Malcolm X (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: The Random House Publishing Group. p. 390.
- If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina … Because that's the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do.
- Tom Tancredo, U.S. Representative, "Republican candidate advocates threat to bomb Islamic holy sites as response to terrorist attack on U.S.". International Herald Tribune. August 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-08-03.
- All over India, all over the world, as the sun or the shadow of darkness moves from east to west, the call to prayer moves with it, and people kneel down in a wave to pray to God. Five waves each day - one for each namaaz - ripple across the globe from longitude to longitude. The component elements change direction, like iron filings near a magnet - towards the house of God in Mecca.