As the birthplace of Muhammad, Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and is the capital of the Makkah Province in Saudi Arabia. Read more.
As the birthplace of Muhammad, Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and is the capital of the Makkah Province in Saudi Arabia. All able Muslims have an obligation to make a pilgrimage (or Hajj) during their lifetime, and each year these pilgrims more than triple the city’s two million strong population during the Hajj period. Due to this annual influx, Mecca is now one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Muslim world. Non-Muslims, however, are prohibited from entering the city and this is strongly enforced.
Sacred sites, diverse culture and places to stay
Pilgrims to Mecca generally follow the set itinerary of the Hajj which includes visiting al-Masjid al-Haram, the sacred mosque and holiest site in Mecca and Islam. At the centre of the sacred mosque is the Kaaba, said to have been built by Prophet Abraham himself and his son, Prophet Ishmael. Pilgrims also spend a night in the Muzdalifah desert.
Shopping outlets in Mecca are diverse with many stores selling Attars, the perfume oils made by many Arabian perfume brands. Food from all over the world is available in Mecca, with a selection of Middle Eastern, Indian, Southeast Asian and even American fast food chains.
Mecca caters well to its visitors with a huge range of hotels, from international chains to independent boutique hotels. Prices vary depending on proximity to the sacred mosque. It’s best to book well in advance as some hotels are booked out year-round.
Travelling to Mecca
The government of Saudi Arabia issues special visas for those making the pilgrimage, and the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah has a Hajj Terminal dedicated for the pilgrims. The Hajj Terminal is serviced mainly by charter flights, with a few scheduled services. Flights to Mecca at other times of year use the airport’s alternative terminals. An excellent large volume highway connects Jeddah to Mecca. Although traffic on the highway is generally smooth-flowing, during the Hajj period it is extremely congested. Most tourists opt for private charter buses from Jeddah, however, SAPTCO also runs a bus service to Mecca from other cities around the country.