Mecca, Saudi Arabia
As the most known holy city in the world, Mecca (also called Makkah) in Saudi Arabia attracts hundreds of visitors and pilgrims every year. Since it is the center of whole Islamic religion, forget about getting inside Mecca if you are non-Muslim. Of course, some exceptions could be made, but it will be a long process, and still there is a little probability that a non-Muslim will be allowed to visit the holy city.
The place is so important to Muslims because Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born there and it happened in 570 CE. Muslims themselves believe that Muhammad was, in fact, the one who brought back the monotheistic faith of such prophets as Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Noah and others. Muslims strongly trust in the Muhammad’s statement that “God is one” and it is believed that Muhammad received this revelation at the age of 40.
The Holy Mosque (also – the Great Mosque) is the most substantial and sacred site in Mecca, since in the center of the mosque the famous Kaaba (The Cube) is located. At least 5 times a day each Muslim has to pray facing towards the direction of Kaaba (the direction itself is called Quiblah) even if they are on the other side of the world. Site is the most crowded during Hajj – the largest pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim to be done at least once in a lifetime. During the Hajj time, there is no room to swing a cat there since about 6 million Muslim pilgrims gather in order to circle around Kaaba. This solid black-stone object is cleaned in a special ceremony which occurs every year about thirty days before the start of Ramadan which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Though, if visiting Mecca, one should not infringe on just visiting one site – there are some other architectural sites in Mecca which are definitely worth seeing both from inside and outside. In fact, many do not know that the second tallest building in the world is built in Mecca. It is Abraj Al-Bait also known as the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower. Reaching 601 meters, the height of the building has really impressed everyone but it is not the only record this building has broken. It is also the tallest clock tower in the world and it has the world’s largest clock face.
The period of Hajj is very tense time for accommodation companies. Although, there is quite large number of hotels in the area, they all are very much occupied during that time and no last-minute reservations are possible then. However, if booking a room is very timely, it is possible to find a nice place to stay overnight in Mecca. InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid is known to be the best hotel in the area, but if you are looking for something much cheaper, you can stay in such hotels as Dar Al Salam Hotel, Nawazi Al Azizah Hotel, Mobark Plaza Hotel and some others.
Mecca is not a typical tourism destination. Entertainment and relaxation has never been the main motive of arriving there, so every guest should keep in mind that visitation in Mecca is very spiritual and life changing event and not everyone has a chance to even cross the border of this historically and religiously remarkable site.