Mecca or Makkah is a city in Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. This is the capital city of Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia. The population of this city is over two million people which is less than one-third of the visitors to this city. The number of tourists of this place is more than thrice the population of the city. But these visitors and tourists are not always present. They come every year during the twelfth lunar month of the Muslims known as the Hajj period in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah. On an annual analysis, it was found that over 15 million Muslims come to visit this holy city per year and mostly during the Hajj days. But there is a very weird rule and fact of the city which prohibits the non-Muslim people to enter the city, which is unfair to the world.
The reason why this place is so special and dear to the Muslims is that it is the birthplace of Lord Muhammad and is a site where the Quran was first revealed. Therefore, it is the holiest city in the Islamic culture and every Muslim is obligated to visit if he is able enough. This means if a Muslim fellow has enough money and physical fitness and is an adult, then he must visit Mecca once in his life. This pilgrimage is called Hajj. The direction of the place is the direction in which all the Muslims pray. Another Muslim pilgrimage is Umrah. This is not obligatory like Hajj but Quran recommends it.
The pilgrimage is to visit the Masjid al-Haram, which is the world’s largest mosque. This mosque is popularly known as Haram, and the Grand Mosque which surrounds the Kabba. The buildings in Mecca are 1500 years old and most of the heritage is lost. During the pilgrimage, the crowd mostly goes out of the control and several incidents take place in such large number of people. Once in 1990, a ventilation system failed in the tunnel for pedestrians and it was very crowded during that time. Approximately 1500 people died by suffocating.
Until 1925, Mecca was ruled and empowered by descendants of Muhammad. It was in 1925, that the city was absorbed by Saudi Arabia. The city is very beautiful and very large. It is expanded tremendously far and has wonderful sights and monuments. The world’s 3rd tallest structure is in Mecca which is Abraj Al Bait, which is also famous as Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel. Mecca has many historical sites which has great architectural importance, for instance, Ajyad Fortress.
Medina or Madinah is famous as the “Radiant City” was officially known as ‘al-Madinah al Munawwarah’. This city is situated in the Hejaz region to the west in Saudi Arabia and is the capital city of Al Madinah Province. The original name of this place was Yathrib which was personally changed by Muhammad to Medina which means ‘city’. The law here permits non-Muslims to enter the city but not cross the city centre. The historical city was oval shaped and was surrounded by 30 to 40 feet high walls build during the 12th century. It had four gates. Out of them, Bab-al-Salam is the most remarkable and most known for its beauty is famous as the Egyptian gate. It had gardens, plantations, yards and houses. But the city was demolished by the Saudi era and rebuilt with taking Al- Masjid al-Nabawi in the centre.
The city is second most holy place for Muslims after Mecca. This is because of the fact that prophet Muhammad was buried here. He was buried under the Green Dome and his followers Abu, Bakr and Omar were buried in the prophet’s house which is next to the Green Dome. The city was the power base of Islam where Muhammad and his followers: Abu, Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali, developed the religion. This is the reason that the Islamic Calendar has Year 1 as the one when Muhammad and his followers emigrated from Mecca to Medina.
Medina is almost 340 kilometers (210 miles) away from Mecca and approximately 190 kilometers (120 miles) away from the Red Sea coast. The Hejaz territory’s most fertile part is covered by Medina. It has a vast plain and is surrounded by hills and mountains and has a great natural view in every direction.
The major attractions of the city are its three oldest mosques. One is Quba Mosque which is the very first Mosque in history of Islamic religion. Second is Al-Masjid an-Nabawi and is called the Prophet’s Mosque. The third is the Masjid al-Qiblatain which is the Mosque of the two Qiblahs where the direction of Muslim prayer was switched. Other than these, there are the tombs of Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter and the tomb of his grandson Hasan at the Jannat al Baqi across the mosque. The tombs of Abu Bakr, the first caliph and the father of wife of Muhammad and Umar, the second caliph are also located in Medina. But all the mosques are of the times of Muhammad. Under the Saudi rule, these have burned twice and reconstructed. Since the Saudi rule, many historical and religious places were destroyed.