City in Western Saudi Arabia. (Pop. 689,000). The birthplace of Muhammed ( A.D. c.570). Mecca is the holiest city of Islam and is revered as the first city on earth. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter. The city is completely dependant on the nearly 2 million pilgrims who come to Mecca each year to pray and study Islam. It is compulsory that Muslims go on a hajj to Mecca at some point in their lives.

Metaphorically, the word "Mecca" is sometimes used to describe the central place or venue of discussion of a specific interest or group of people. The implication of this is that the place described is as central or important to the interest or group concerned as the real Mecca is to Muslims. (This is usually hyperbole)

For instance, a friend of mine once told me that the rather goofy fellow who runs the New York Radio Message Board calls it "The Mecca of all internet radio message boards." It's located at http://musicradio.computer.net/wwwboard/ so you can confirm or deny that statement if you want.
Acording to Islam, Mecca was founded by Ibrahim and Ismael and Hajar.

The well of zamzam exploded under the infant Ismael's feet who was crying while his mother Hajar was searching for water and walking after a mirage between two hills called Al Safa wa Al Marwa. Meaning: The Pure & The Quench, thinking it is an oasis of water because of the mirage effect, Muslims perform the safa and marwa tawaf in memoration of hajar.

Ibrahim and Ismael later Rebuilt the Kaba literaly meaning: The cube. According to Islam, The Kaba is the first place of worship to God on earth and Jerusalem was the second.

Mecca is mentioned in the old & new testament as paran.


Brief history on the expansion of the holy mosque in Mecca.



630 A.D.

After the peaceful conquest of Mecca by prophet Mohammed, the Kabba (Arabic for cube) had a circular area for worship estimated at 2,000 square meters. The Kabba is located at the center of the city of Mecca



638 A.D.

Floods spread through the Holy Mosque in Mecaa. Calpih Omar bin Al-Khattab supervised the repair of the damage and enclosed the courtyard, adding 500 square meters to the older circular plaza.



646 A.D.

Caliph Uthman Bin Affan extended the plaza by an estimated 1,700 square meters and enclosed it.



684 A.D.

Abdullah Bin Al-Zubar increased the area by 3,300 square meters.



754 A.D.

Abu Jafar Al-Mansour added 5,300 square meters.



??? A.D.

Muhammad Al-Mahdi increased the area by 15,000 square meters.



??? A.D.

Al-Mutadil Al-Abbasi added another 1,300 square meters.



918 A.D.

Al-Muqtadri Al-Abbasi added 950 square meter entrance hall. The total size of the mosque was 30,200 square meters. This stayed unchanged for over 1,000 years, partially because successive Muslim states neglected the mosque.



1955 A.D.

King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia in 1932, wanted to expand the mosque but never lived to see it. The project began in 1955 after Abdul Aziz's death, it enclosed mount Safa and Marwa track, the track is called al Mas'a (closest related translation is hunt or seek, since Islamic tradition hold that Haggar walked between these two mountains thinking that the mirrage she saw was water), al mas'a was to be enclosed and incorporated into the mosque. Construction was slow paced and lasted for 20 year, by 1976, 300,000 worshipers can perform Hajj.

1988 A.D.

King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz made further expansions and gave the mosque its current look. The expansion project took 4 years and ended in 1992. The prayer area inside the mosque was 76,000 square meters by now, a basement was built, including ground and first floor as well as a roof. Al Mas'a was incorporated into the Mosque by 1992. An open area surrounding the Mosque was built and measured at 10,000 square meters, the covered combined area is 86,800 square meters. The extension included seven 89 meter minarets (towers where prayer calls are made from, the word is Arabic for light, as in guidance, derived from the 3 letter root noun Noon Wow Ra). Additionally, escalators were also added coupled with air conditioning to provide cooling for the worshipers.



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Reference:

http://www.iad.org/Makkah.html

The city of Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia is about 50 miles away from the Red Sea Coast. It has a population of about 618,000, although at any given time the population may be much larger due to Muslims coming from all around the globe to visit this sacred city. This is the most sacred city for Muslims, and non-Muslims may not enter the city's boundaries. The most sacred masjid (mosque), Masjid Al-Haram, is located in this city. The city features mountains, many of which have some symbolic meaning, or a story behind them. The city also holds the holy well of Zamzam.

Why is this city so sacred to Muslims all over the world? The city is the site for the yearly pilgrimage, the Hajj, which all Muslims must complete at least once in their life. It is also the focal point for the prayers, or Salaat, of Muslims. Every Muslim must pray five times a day toward the direction of Mecca (more specifically towards the Holy Ka'aba). The city of Mecca is also the most beloved place for Allah (SWTA), and is the most virtuous city in the world. For example, the reward of a prayer done in this city is one hundred thousand times greater than a prayer done in any other city. This city was also the birthplace of the Holy Prophet, Muhammad (SAW). Even before the origins of Islam and the revelations by the Prophet, Mecca was considered a holy city, making it a central point in the caravan trading routes running over the Arabian peninsula.

In and around the city of Mecca, there are many masjids, most of which were the site for the prayers of the Holy Prophet (SAW) and his Companions.

In and around the city of Mecca, there exist many famous mountains which Muslims usually go and visit during their pilgramage.

  • Jabl Rahmat is a mountain in Arafat where the Prophet (SAW) had given his final sermon .
  • Jabl Thaur is a mountain three miles from the city, and is the site where the Prophet (SAW) and one of his companions Abu Bakr (RA) stayed for three nights following their "hijra." The mountain is about a mile to a mile and a half high, with steps being carved out all the way to the top.
  • The Cave of Hijra is by Mina, and is where the Prophet (SAW) used to go in complete solitude when the prophethood was being given to him. This is the site where the Prophet (SAW) received his first revelation.

During the annual Hajj, the carrying capacity of the city of Mecca is put to its limit. This past Hajj, over two million pilgrims made the trip to Mecca. This requires a great amount of planning by the Saudi government. Hotels, restaurants and other services are pushed to their limits, but make a great deal of profit during this pilgrimage.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is closed off to tourists, and the city itself is closed off to anyone who is not Muslim. There are road blocks placed across the roads leading to the city allowing only Muslims to pass. At least once, a non-Muslim actually did visit Mecca. In 1853, The British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton (he translated the 100 stories of the Arabian Knights and discovered the Kama Sutra), disguised as an Afghani Muslim visited the city and wrote his Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Mecca.

Although Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the religious capital of not only Saudi Arabia, but also for Muslims all over the world.

Sources:
http://www.geocities.com/al_hajj/Makkah.html
http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa120798.htm

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