Cities and Regions

Mecca is the capital of Saudi’s Mecca Province which is located on the Red Sea. The city lies about 280m above sea level, and some 80 km east of the Red Sea. It lies in the sandy Valley of Abraham in the Hijaz region surrounded by barren rocky hills that vary from 70-180m in height.

The birthplace of Mohammed and the seat of the famous Ka’aba, it was celebrated even in pre-Islamic times as the chief sanctuary of the Arabs, and visited by pilgrims. The Ka’aba is the focal point of the city, the direction of prayer for Muslims everywhere in the world. Muslims regard Mecca and its mosque, al-Masjid as-Haram, as the most sacred place on earth.


Fort most of its history, Mecca has been a place of religious devotion and scholarship. It was governed by the Hashemites from 690AD on, until they were overthrown by al-Saud in 1926 with the formation of Saudi Arabia.


Mecca’s population has grown to about 1.3 million inhabitants, the city has expanded and modernized, though at the expense of the old walled city and historic buildings. Employment is mainly related to the hajj. Each year about a million Muslims from all over the world make their hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. The pilgrimage is a required of all Muslims as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In recent years pilgrims also go to Mecca for the ‘umra, a smaller pilgrimage, during the month of Ramadan. Non-Muslims are not permitted in the city.