Other spelling: Makkah
Traditional house of Mecca.
The Haram mosque, centre of hajj.
City in Saudi Arabia with 1.4 million inhabitants (2003 estimate). Mecca is located about 80 km from the Red Sea Coast, around a natural well.
Mecca is the most holy city in Islam. The city is revered from being the first place created on earth, as well as the place where Ibrahim together with his son Isma’il, built the Ka’ba. The Ka’ba, the centre of Islam, is a rectangular building made of bricks. Around the Ka’ba is the great mosque, al-Haram, and around the mosque, in between the mountains, are the houses that make up Mecca.
Mecca was a central point on the caravan routes running over the Arabian peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Mecca was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to Muhammad.
Mecca’s importance as a centre of religious teaching must not be exaggerated. Very soon in the beginning of the Muslim expansion, religious teaching moved to other places in the Muslim world. Mecca is important in two points: Centre of the compulsory pilgrimage, and a focal point for all Muslims.
Today, many of the people living in Mecca are pilgrims wanting to study Islam in the very centre of the world. But this learning is primarily aimed at normal people, and even today Muslim theology is exercised other places. But for Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the centre of religious teaching.
Apart from the services for pilgrimage there are only modest economic activities going on. Every year some 2 million pilgrims attend the hajj, and this number is now regulated, where each country can send a fixed number of adherents. The numbers of Muslims coming to Mecca for the umra, the lesser pilgrimage are far less, and not regulated.
Known around 0 CE as Macoraba, and was an important trade and religious centre.
630: Comes under control of Muhammad, and purged it of all traces of non-Muslim religion.
1269: Comes under control of the Egyptian Mamluks.
1517: Passes to the Ottoman Empire.
1925: Comes under control of King Ibn Sa’ud.
1979 November 21: On the first day of the 15th Islamic century, a group of 300 students from the Theological University of Medina take control over the Holy Mosque of Mecca. They keep control for two weeks, when 63 are captured alive and the mosque is recovered. All occupants are executed.
1987 July 31: Riot by Iranian pilgrims. More than 400 people die.
1989 July 9: Two bombs kill 1 person. Shi’is of Kuwait are accused, and 16 are executed.
1990 July 2: Stampede lead to 1402 people dead.
1994: A stampede kills 400 people.
1997 April 15: Fire kills 340 people.
2004 February 1: Stampede kills 244 people.
2006 January 13: More than 345 pilgrims die in a stampede near the Jamrat Complex in Mina.