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(mĕk`ə) or


(măk`ə), city (1993 pop. 966,381), capital of the Hejaz, W Saudi Arabia. The birthplace c.A.D. 570 of MuhammadMuhammad
[Arab.,=praised], 570?–632, the name of the Prophet of Islam, one of the great figures of history, b. Mecca. Early Life

Muhammad was the son of Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his wife Amina, both of the Hashim clan of the dominant Kuraish (Quraysh)
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 the Prophet, it is the holiest city of IslamIslam
, [Arab.,=submission to God], world religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the 7th cent., Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions (with Judaism and Christianity). An adherent to Islam is a Muslim [Arab.,=one who submits].
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, and the goal of the annual Muslim hajjhajj
, the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, one of the five basic requirements (arkan or "pillars") of Islam. Its annual observance corresponds to the major holy day id al-adha, itself a commemoration of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son on Divine orders.
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. It is c.45 mi (70 km) from its port, JiddaJidda
or Jedda
, city (1993 est. pop. 2,058,000), Hejaz, W Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea. Jidda is the port of Mecca (c.45 mi/72 km to the east) and annually receives a huge influx of pilgrims, mainly from Africa, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
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, and is in a narrow valley overlooked by hills crowned with castles. Unlike those of most Middle Eastern cities, many of the buildings, constructed of stone, are more than three stories high.

At the center of Mecca is the Great Mosque, the Haram, which encloses the KaabaKaaba
or Caaba
[Arab.,=cube], the central, cubic, stone structure, covered by a black cloth, within the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The sacred nature of the site predates Islam: tradition says that the Kaaba was built by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham and the
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, the focus of Muslim worship. Next to the Kaaba is Zamzam, a holy well used solely for religious and medicinal purposes. Also near the Great Mosque is the Abraj Al-Bait, a complex of tall hotels and a shopping mall clustered around the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, which has the world's largest clock face and also is one of the tallest buildings in the world. The commerce of the city, which has little arable land and must import most of its food, depends heavily on the millions of pilgrims who visit Mecca during the annual hajj. Muslims are the only people allowed to reside in Mecca. The city is home to two colleges and the Umm al-Qura Univ. (1979). Roads link Mecca with many other cities in Saudi Arabia, such as MedinaMedina
, Arabic Medinat an-Nabi [city of the Prophet] or Madinat Rasul Allah [city of the apostle of Allah], city (1993 pop. 608,226), Hejaz, W Saudi Arabia. It is situated c.
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 and JiddaJidda
or Jedda
, city (1993 est. pop. 2,058,000), Hejaz, W Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea. Jidda is the port of Mecca (c.45 mi/72 km to the east) and annually receives a huge influx of pilgrims, mainly from Africa, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
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Mecca was an ancient center of commerce and a place of great sanctity for idolatrous Arab sects before the rise of Muhammad. Muhammad's flight (the Hegira) from Mecca in 622 is the beginning of the rise of Islam. He captured the city shortly after. Although Mecca never lost its sanctity, it declined rapidly in commercial importance after its capture by the UmayyadsUmayyad
, the first Islamic dynasty (661–750). Their reign witnessed the return to leadership roles of the pre-Islamic Arab elite, and the rejuvenation of tribal loyalties. The Banu Ummaya constituted the higher stratum of the pre-Islamic Meccan elite.
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 in 692. It was sacked in 930 by the KarmathiansKarmathians
or Carmathians
, a Muslim sect of the 9th and 10th cent., similar to the Assassin sect. They were part of a movement for social reform that spread widely through Islam from the 9th to the 12th cent.
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 and taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. The WahhabisWahhabi
or Wahabi
, reform movement in Islam, originating in Arabia; adherents of the movement usually refer to themselves as Muwahhidun [unitarians]. It was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab (c.
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 held it from 1803 to 1813. In Mecca, in 1916, Husayn ibn AliHusayn ibn Ali
, 1856–1931, Arab political and religious leader. In 1908 he succeeded as grand sherif of Mecca and thus became ruler of the Hejaz under the Ottoman Empire.
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 proclaimed his independence from Turkey and maintained himself as king of the HejazHejaz
or Hedjaz
, region, c.150,000 sq mi (388,500 sq km), NW Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Mecca is the chief city. Extending S to Asir, Hejaz is mainly a dissected highland region lying between the narrow, long coastal strip and the interior
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 until Mecca fell to Ibn SaudIbn Saud
(Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud) , c.1880–1953, founder of Saudi Arabia and its first king. His family, with its regular seat at Riyadh in the Nejd, were the traditional leaders of the ultraorthodox Wahhabi movement in Islam.
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 in 1924.

The oil boom in Saudi Arabia significantly improved services in Mecca, resulting in greater numbers of pilgrims, and at times the hajj has become a turbulent religious and political event. In Nov., 1979, Muslim fundamentalists occupied the Great Mosque in Mecca; after a 2-week siege, more than 100 rebels were killed. Iranian pilgrims rioted in July, 1987, during the hajj, clashing with Saudi troops and ending with the death of more than 400 people. The huge crowds associated with the increased number of pilgrims, which since the 1990s have grown to exceeded 2.5 million annually, have also resulted in several deadly stampedes, in which hundreds have sometimes died.


See G. De Gaury, Rulers of Mecca (1954, repr. 1982); E. Guelloz, Pilgrimage to Mecca (1982).

Mecca (Saudi Arabia)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Mecca, a city in western Saudi Arabia, was the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the site of the Kaaba (“House of God”), the most holy place in the world for Muslims. Muslims around the world face Mecca when they pray and are obliged to make a pilgrimage to the city at least once in their lives, if at all possible.

Islam had its beginning in Mecca. It was in a cave outside the city that Muhammad began to receive the revelations that became the Qur’an,

Islam’s holy book, and it was in Mecca that Muhammad first preached the truths that Allah (God) had confided in him. Muhammad’s eviction from Mecca in 622 is the event from which the Muslim calendar begins. He returned in 630 to establish monotheism, destroy the many deity statues and shrines that surrounded the Kaaba, and institute the Islamic practices relative to the Kaaba that give structure to Muslim prayer and worship to this day. Muhammad by then resided in Medina, but toward the end of his life he made a final trip to visit Mecca, one that is commemorated in the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Mecca was a holy site for centuries prior to Muhammad’s career. The Kaaba, an ancient stone building measuring 45 feet by 33 feet by 50 feet, is located within a masjid (mosque). The presentbuilding, not the original one, is made of granite. It has a single door and no windows. Inside are several gold and silver lamps suspended from the ceiling and three wooden pillars that support the ceiling. According to tradition, the Kaaba was originally built by Adam but was destroyed in the Noahic flood. It was rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael (at this point the Qur’an builds on the Jewish Bible). Muslims trace their lineage to Ishmael rather than Isaac, Abraham’s other son.

Also located at the Kaaba is the large Black Stone. Arriving inside the mosque that contains the Kaaba, pilgrims are known to kiss the Black Stone, thought by many to have been a meteorite. Mythic accounts suggest that it fell from heaven or was brought to Earth by angels. Some stories suggest it was originally white, but turned black by taking in the impurities of the many human touches over the centuries. In the tenth century, it was carried away by some Islamic dissidents and held for ransom for some twenty years. Today the stone is built into the eastern wall of the Kaaba. It has broken into three large pieces and some smaller fragments and is now kept together with a silver band encased in a stone ring.

Control of the Kaaba was originally in the hands of Muhammad’s physical family, but it eventually fell under the hegemony of outsiders, including the ruler of Egypt and, beginning in 1517, the Ottomans. Modern Saudi Arabia was created in the 1920s and assumed control of Mecca as the Ottoman Empire was dissolved. In 1932 the government began to self-consciously support the Hajj and has steadily created structures to assist the annual pilgrimages. The number of pilgrims has grown exponentially through the last half of the twentieth century. During the Hajj, the population of Mecca increases from 200,000 to as much as two million.


Peters, F. E. The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca
and the Holy Places. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.
___. Mecca: A Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.
Stewart, Desmond. Mecca. New York: Newsweek, 1980.



a city in western Saudi Arabia and the administrative center of the Hejaz region. It is located 70 km from the Red Sea and is surrounded by hills and steep cliffs. The city is connected by highway with Riyadh, Medina, and Jidda. Population, about 185,000 (1965).

The principal sources of income are commerce, services for pilgrims, the production of rugs and perfumes in factories and domestic workshops, and the bottling of the “sacred water” of the Zamzam well. Such religious objects as coral and plastic prayer beads, special clothing for pilgrims (ihram), and sacred books are sold.

The date of Mecca’s founding is unknown. A settlement arose at the Zamzam well, first mentioned by Ptolemy as Macoraba. Before the rise of Islam in the seventh century it was an important intermediary in trade between the East and the Mediterranean countries, as well as a religious center for the pagan tribes of the Arabian Peninsula.

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born in Mecca. In the seventh century, Mecca, along with Medina, became a Muslim holy city and a place of pilgrimage, or hajj. After the disintegration of the Abbasid Caliphate in the tenth century, Mecca became a vassal of the dynasties that ruled in Egypt. When the Turks conquered Egypt in 1517, the rulers of Mecca, called sharifs, recognized the suzerainty of the Turkish sultans but remained relatively autonomous. Mecca was the capital of the Kingdom of the Hejaz from 1916 to 1924, when it was incorporated into Saudi Arabia (known as the Kingdom of the Hejaz and Nejd until 1932).

In the center of the city is the Great Mosque, or Haram, whose present buildings date mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. Among its builders were the Turkish architects Sinan and Mehmed-Aga. The Haram has a vast courtyard surrounded by galleries with three or four rows of columns, numerous gates, and seven minarets. It was built around the ancient shrine of the Kaaba, erected in 608 and rebuilt in 1684 in the form of a stone cube. Houses are traditional buildings of one to five stories.


holy city where Muhammad was born. [Islamic Religion: Brewer Dictionary, 596]


, Mekka
a city in W Saudi Arabia, joint capital (with Riyadh) of Saudi Arabia: birthplace of Mohammed; the holiest city of Islam, containing the Kaaba. Pop.: 1 529 000 (2005 est.)