Cities and Regions

Medinat al-Nabi (city of the Prophet) or al-Madina al-Munawwara (radiant city), in the Hijaz in western Saudi Arabia. It is situated about 180 km inland from the Red Sea in a well-watered oasis where fruit, dates, vegetables, and grain are grown. Medina was known as Yathrib before the flight (Hegira) of Muhammad there from Mecca in 622. Muhammad quickly gained control of Medina, successfully defended it against attacks from Mecca, and used it as the base for converting and conquering Arabia. Medina grew rapidly until 661, when the Umayyad dynasty transferred the capital of the caliphate to Damascus. Thereafter Medina became a provincial town, ruled by governors appointed by the distant caliphs. Local warfare drained the city’s prosperity. It came under the sway of the Ottoman Turks in 1517. 

The Wahhabis captured Median in 1804, but it was retaken for the Turks by Muhammad Ali in 1812. In World War I, the forces of Husain ibn Ali, who revolted against Turkey, captured Medina. In 1924 it fell to Ibn Saud, Husain’s rival, after a 15-month siege. The city is surrounded by double walls flanked by bastions and pierced by nine gates. The chief building is al-Masjid a-l Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque, which contains the tombs of Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, and the caliphs Umar and Abu Bakr. Medina is the seat of Islamic University.


The pilgrimage to Mecca usually includes a side trip to Medina. In both cities, only Muslims are allowed to enter

In the mountains west of Medina is Hima al-Fiqrah, a protected area rich in ferns and juniper. It is a bee-keeping area, and home to wildlife such as leopard, wolf, ibex buzzard and eagle.