Mecca (Makkah) in western Saudi Arabia is Islam's holiest city. Mecca (Makkah)is the birthplace of Mohammad and the place he returned to after his exile toMedina. Five times a day more than one billion Muslims around the world turntowards it to pray to Allah.
Enclosed by the sandy Valley of Abraham, Mecca (Makkah) is surrounded by lowrocky hill ranges in a region of western Saudi Arabia known as Hijaz, which alsocomprises Medina and Jedda.
Mecca (Makkah) stands almost 300 metres above sea level and approximately 45miles (70 kilometres) east of the Red Sea. Mecca (Makkah) has a residentpopulation of 650,000 which more than triples during the annual Hajj.Non-Muslims have been forbidden entry to the city since 630CE when Mohammad madeMecca (Makkah) the centre of the Muslim faith.
Forced into exile in Medina in 622, Mohammad established a model Islamiccommunity in Medina but returned to take Mecca (Makkah) in 629, purifying theKa'aba of its idols before spreading the word of Islam.
The Ka'aba is enclosed by the Great Mosque, the focus of Muslim worship. Thehealing waters of the Zam Zam well flow nearby, miraculously appearing over4,000 years ago to save Abraham's son Ishmael from dehydration in the Meccandesert.
In a city where the inhabitants centre their lives around the spiritualthrust of the city, Mecca (Makkah) is a place of pilgrimage devoted to God wherethe five prayers pace every day.
In Mecca (Makkah), time runs according to the divine.
Pronounced ma-KAH, it is one of the most recognisable Islamic words in theworld.