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Muslims often describe the moment they step inside Mecca's Grand Mosque as an overwhelmingly emotional experience. For those living outside Saudi Arabia, a visit to Mecca – generally spelt 'Makkah' by Muslims and in Saudi Arabia – is a lifelong dream as they prepare for the hajj pilgrimage, an obligation that all Muslims must perform if they are financially and physical able to do so.

But Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, is not limited to satisfying the spiritual thirst of visitors. Born of the desert, this is a city with the heart of a village, conjuring images of historic Arabia. Sun-bleached homes nestle in rocky hillsides and visitors bargain with shopkeepers with the largest mosque in the world rising above them. It’s here that modernity, thanks to extensive building improvements, mixes with the Arabia of the past.

  1. Kaaba - meaning cube in Arabic, is a square building elegantly draped in a silk and cotton veil, and is the holiest shrine in Islam.

In Islam, Muslims pray five times a day and after 624 CE, these prayers were directed towards Mecca and the Kaaba rather than Jerusalem; this direction—or qibla in Arabic—is marked in all mosques and enables the faithful to know in which direction they should pray. The Qur‘an established the direction of prayer.

All Muslims aspire to undertake the hajj, or the annual pilgrimage, to the Kaaba once in their lives if they are able. Prayer five times a day and the hajj are two of the five pillars of Islam, the most fundamental principles of the faith.Upon arriving in Mecca, pilgrims gather in the courtyard of the Masjid al-Haram around the Kaaba. They then circumambulate—tawaf in Arabic—or walk around the Kaaba, during which they hope to kiss and touch the Black Stone—al-Hajar al-Aswad—embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba.

  1. Birthplace of Mohammed - The birthplace of the Prophet still survives, although it faces threats of demolition to make way for the expansion of the Grand Mosque. Adjacent to the mosque across an expansive courtyard, the two-story structure is now a library. At this site it’s believed that Aminah gave birth to the Prophet around six months after the death of the Prophet’s father, who had been on a trading journey and had stopped in Medina. It's west of King Fahd Rd and the Second Ring Rd.
  2. Grand Mosque- The focal point for every Muslim performing hajj, the Grand Mosque encompasses 356,800 sqmetres. It can accommodate as many as 820,000 worshippers within its confines and more than one million outside the perimeter, where worshippers can pray. The Kaaba is in the central courtyard. The mosque dates to the 7th century under the leadership of Caliph Omar bin Al Khattab, who expanded the structure to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims each year.
  3. Museum of the Prophet - Hajj and umrah pilgrims flock to this privately owned museum dedicated to study of the Quran, the Prophet’s life and his Hadiths (traditions). The museum features a scientific examination of Mohammed’s life, and theQuran.
  4. Makkah Museum - Once the Al Zahir Palace, the 3435-sq-metre Makkah Museum has a collection ranging from images of Saudi Arabia’s important archaeological discoveries to exhibits on pre-Islamic history. An interesting presentation traces the origins of Islamic calligraphy by reference to Arabic fonts and samples of inscriptions discovered in archaeological digs. A hall on Islamic art complements the calligraphy displays.
  5. Al Haramain Museum - Be persistent when calling for an appointment to visit this venue, since the phones may go unanswered. But it’s worth the wait, with seven halls featuring the history of the Grand Mosque. A highlight is the Holy Kaaba Hall, which displays the kiswah, the cloth that covers the black cube, and other artefacts once part of the Kaaba.
  6. Cave of Thor - This small mountain (761m) is where the Prophet hid for three days with his companion Abu Bakr from the Quraysh tribe. According to Islamic custom, an acacia tree grew rapidly in front of the cave while the men were hiding here. In the tree, a dove built a nest and laid eggs and a spider spun a web over the cave’s entrance to protect the men from detection, all of which marked the cave as a sign of faith and hope.
  7. Jabal Al Nour -The 640m-tall Jabal Al Nour is the location of the tiny Hira cave and one of the most important pilgrimage sites. According to Islamic tradition, it was here that the archangel Gabriel gave the Prophet his first revelation. Although the mountain is actually a hill, reaching the cave entails a difficult hike that takes even the fittest hiker as much as two hours. Temperatures can reach 45°C and extreme caution should be exercised before making the climb.
  8. Al Malaa Cemetery - Many of the most important members of the Prophet’s family are buried here, including the Prophet’s first wife, Umm ulMu’mineen Khadija, his sons Qasim and Abdullah, his uncle Abu Talib and his grandfather Abdul Muttalib. When visiting, remember not to leave flowers or objects on graves, as veneration of graves is frowned upon by Saudi authorities. Women are not permitted in the cemetery. The cemetery is between Al Hujun Rd and the Second Ring Rd.
  9. JabalRahmah - Known as the Mountain of Mercy, this granite hill is an important part of performing hajj as pilgrims leave Mina for Arafat on the ninth day to recite the Quran and pray. The Prophet gave his last sermon at the site shortly before his death. Stairs leading to the hill’s peak provide relatively easy access. Vendors may be selling markers here, but be aware that writing names on the hillside is illegal.
  10. Masjid Al Bi'ah -Found off Al Haramain Rd near Mina, Masjid Al Bi'ah marks the spot where tribal leaders pledged their allegiance to Mohammed in AD 621. Simple in design, but carrying Hejazi architectural touches, it features arched entryways opening to a large courtyard. It’s easily accessible from the street and can accommodate visitors with disabilities.
  11. Masjid Al Khayf - According to a hadith of Bin Abbas – a cousin of the Prophet and an early Islamic scholar – numerous prophets prayed here. It's south of Mina.
  12. Abraj Al-Bait Towers - is a government-owned megatall complex of seven skyscraper hotels in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. These towers are a part of the King Abdulaziz Endowment Project that strives to modernize the city in catering to its pilgrims. The central hotel tower, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, A Fairmont Hotel, has the world's largest clock face and is the third tallest building and fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world. The building complex is metres away from the world's largest mosque and Islam's most sacred site, the Masjid al-Haram. The developer and contractor of the complex is the Saudi Binladin Group, the Kingdom's largest construction company.
  13. Zamzam Well - The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 meters (66 feet) east of the Ka'aba,the holiest place in Islam. The well is 35 meters deep and topped by an elegant dome.Millions of Muslims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water and, in many cases, to take home some of its water for distribution among friends and relations.
  14. Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel- Located adjacent to the Masjid Al Haram, Makkah Clock Royal Tower, A Fairmont Hotel boasts a prime location as the closest hotel to Kaaba and yet the best for Umrah and Hajj. Standing as one of the world’s tallest buildings with 76 floors, Makkah Clock Royal Tower, the focal point of the Abraj Al Bait Complex, part of the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, is the iconic symbol of hospitality in the Holy City. In addition to the ultimate comfort and casual elegance of the 1618 guest rooms suites and Residences, the five-star hotel provides 56 elevators that allow easy access to and from Al Masjid Al Haram. Combining luxurious design with the warm tradition of genuine Arab hospitality, the nine state-of-the-art dining venues are perfect for accommodating a wide range of social
  15. Makkah Mall - It represents the only ‘Full stop’ shopping centre in Makkah City. Anchored by a wide array of local and international brands, a Panda Supermarket, Billy Beez Soft playground, and many other facilities to enjoy an ultimate shopping and leisure experience.
  16. Black Stone - The Black Stone is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba, the ancient stone building located in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is revered by Muslims as an Islamic relic which, according to Muslim tradition, dates back to the time of Adam and Eve. The stone was venerated at the Kaaba in pre-Islamic pagan times. According to Islamic tradition, it was set intact into the Kaaba's wall by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the year 605 A.D., five years before his first revelation. Since then it has been broken into a number of fragments and is now cemented into a silver frame in the side of the Kaaba. Its physical appearance is that of a fragmented dark rock, polished smooth by the hands of pilgrims. Islamic tradition holds that it fell from the heaven as a guide for Adam and Eve to build an altar, although it has often been described as a meteorite, a hypothesis which is now uncertain.
  1. Albaik - There are 3 branches near Makkah, one near the haram (outside the shopping mall), second, as you come out of the haram on the main road and third on the same main road but further down. The average price of this place is £2 - £8.Specialties: Fast food, Halal

2.Al Tazaj - Fast food, Middle Eastern, Halal

  1. Hardee’s - American, Fast food, Address: Mecca 24231, Saudi Arabia It is a 1 minute walk from Al Haram.
  2. Smash Burger - American, Fast food, and Halal. Address: Abraj Al-Bait, Al Hajlah, 4Th floor food court, Mecca, Saudi Arabia 24231

5.Al Deyafa Restaurant - International, European, Asian, Middle Eastern

Address: Al Hajlah, Abraj Al Bait Ajyad Street, King Abdul Aziz Gate 9601, Mecca 24231, Saudi Arabia.

Al Deyafa is an all day dining restaurant located on the 12th floor offering international specialties ranging from Asian culinary gems to artfully prepared European fare. Specialties: local flavours and traditional Arabic dishes.Open daily from 6am to 11pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring extensive buffet food selection and live cooking stations. A la carte menu is also available.

  1. Feld D saji - Asian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Halal - FELDA D’Saji is proud to be the flag bearer for Malaysian and Asian cuisine at the Holy City Makkah Al-Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia. The best of Malaysian and Asian cuisine brought by D’Sajiis located at Level 2 Food Court, Al-Safwa Tower, located in front of King Abdul Aziz Gate of Masjidil Haram.

Among the specialties are Roti Canai, NasiLemak, TehTarik, Various Malay dishes, Char KoeyTeow, Mamak style food and even fast food such as Pizza and Jumbo Hot Dog.

 

Bus - The Saudi Arabia Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) runs a bus service along specific routes in Mecca. Primarily this route is from Masjid Al Haram (Ka'aba) to Masjid-e-Aisha and back. During the Hajj season, another route, i.e. from Masjid Al Haram to Jamarat and Masjid Al Haram to Mina / Muzdalifa are run. The standard fare is SAR2

Car for rent - You can hire a private vehicle – car or van – on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and with or without a driver. Fuel is extremely cheap, around SAR 0.46 per litre of petrol (Water costs SAR 1 minimum). Rentals start at SAR 50 per day.

Driving tips

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Even if you have won the desert rally or the F1 championships, it is illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

The roads are generally good, with the left hand drive, right side of the road driving system. Much of the city is built for cars, but around Masjid-al-Haram, expect heavy pedestrian movement on and off the roads. This gets even more pronounced at prayer times and at the height of the Hajj season. It is also a good idea, as is the case in most countries, to stop for pedestrians crossing the road.

In Makkah, be warned, a lot of the city is hilly with steep climbs. Traffic is okay, not very fast and not too slow. There are plenty of underpasses and bridges to take you easily around town.

Fuel is cheaper than water here, SAR 0.46 to the litre compared to SAR 1 for half a quart of water.

Private Cabs - During the Hajj season, many car owners provide services as cab drivers. These are shared cabs charging single person fare from a group of people. These vehicles range from the GMC SUVs to mini coasters / vans and saloon cars and are quite inexpensive. Bewarned, they wont budge till all the space in the car is crammed with people. Common hunting ground is in and around the Haraam. Prices start at SAR 2.

 Taxi - is the most common and easiest way to getting around Makkah, stick your hand out and you will most probably have cars starting to queue up. Available in vast abundance, the standard meter starts at SAR 5 and runs at every 1.6 Km. However, almost always you would have to haggle the complete fare before undertaking the trip. Talk to at least two cab drivers before taking one. Standard fare comes to about SAR 10.

Buildings/Towers

Kaaba, Address: Mecca 24231, Saudi Arabia

Abraj Al-Bait Towers

Address: Oum Al Qura Street, King Abdul Aziz Endowment, Abraj Al Bait Complex, Mecca Saudi Arabia

Phone: +966 12 571 7777

Website: http://www.fairmont.com/makkah/

Zamzam Well

Address: 4256 King Abdul Aziz Rd, Mecca 24231, Saudi Arabia

Phone: +966 55 016 4388

Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel

Address: Oum Al Qura Street, King Abdul Aziz Endowment, Abraj Al Bait Complex, Mecca Saudi Arabia

Phone: +966 12 571 7777, Website: http://www.fairmont.com/makkah/

 Top attractions

Makkah Mall, Address: King Abdullah Rd, Al Jamiah, Mecca 24246, Saudi Arabia

Al-Safa and Al-Marwah

Address: Mecca 24231, Saudi Arabia, Phone: +966 2 573 3388, Website: http://www.alharamain.gov.sa/

Hira, Address: GharHira Trail, JabalAnNur, Mecca 24238, Saudi Arabia

Masjid Taneem, Address:Mecca,Saudi Arabia

The Grand Mosque, Address: Mecca 24231, Saudi Arabia. Website: http://www.gph.gov.sa/

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