Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia
The religious capital of Saudi Arabia, Makkah al-Mukarramah is located in the western province of Hejaz about 70 km inland from the Red Sea port of Jeddah. It is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (AD 570–632), the founder of the Islamic faith, and is the most sacred of the Muslim holy cities. For fourteen centuries believers have been making the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Makkah between the eighth and 13th days of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The Hajj is one of the five ‘pillars’ or core religious duties of Islam. Around 2 m. pilgrims come to Makkah each year, some 1.3 m. of whom arrive from outside the Kingdom. The city is closed to non-Muslims.
Ancient Makkah was an oasis and staging post on the caravan routes linking the Mediterranean with Arabia, East Africa and south Asia. Mentioned (as Macoraba) by the Egyptian astronomer and geographer Ptolemy in the second century AD, it developed in Roman and Byzantine times into an important...