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Makkah Travel Guide, Saudi Arabia

Makkah or Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the holiest place in the world for Muslims. The city of Mecca is situated in the Hijaz area of the western side of Saudi Arabia, in a narrow valley. Mecca is about 73 kilometers from Jeddah, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The Red Sea is at a distance of about 80 kilometers from Mecca. Every year, thousands of Muslims assemble here from all over the world in a pilgrimage known as Hajj, the current estimate being about three million visitors in the recent years. This visit during the month of Dhu'l-Hijja in the Muslim calendar is one of the 5 basic duties of every Muslim. Visits during the other months are known as Umrah or minor pilgrimage. Mecca is home to the Ka'ba, the holy shrine of the Muslims and the Masjid al-Haram or the Sacred Mosque. 

Mecca City 

The modern city of Mecca has got a population of about 1,700,000. The city is at an elevation of 277 meters above sea level. The city is ruled by the Mecca Municipality, with the mayor, known as Amin, getting appointed by the Government of Saudi Arabia. The municipality council consists of 14 members, who are elected locally. Mecca is the capital of the entire Makkah province that includes the Saudi capital, Jeddah. Till 2007, Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdul Aziz was the governor of the province. After his death, Prince Khalid al Faisal had been appointed as the Makkah governor on May 16, 2007. The area around the Masjid al-Haram is the old city of Mecca. The avenues of Al-Mudda'ah and Sūq al-Layl that lie to the north of the mosque and As-Sūg Assaghīr in the south are the main areas of the city. The expansion of the Grand Mosque had replaced the hundreds of houses in the old city with large city squares and wide avenues. The city itself had grown to a sprawling area of more than 1,200 square kilometers. 

Masjid al-Haram or the Grand Mosque 

Masjid al-Haram is the largest mosque in the entire world.  The holy Ka'ba is situated inside this mosque. The area of the mosque is a vast 356,800 square meters that includes the indoor and outdoor praying spaces.  The mosque could accommodate up to nearly 4 million worshippers. The Zamzam well, which is the remnant of the Zamzam stream, the only stream in this desert area, is also inside this mosque complex. The well water is considered holy and is carried by the Hajj pilgrims in containers, when they return to their native lands. 

Other landmarks of Mecca 

The administration had embarked upon the construction of the huge towers named Abraj Al-Bait, one of the tallest buildings in the world, with a height of 577 meters. The towers are expected to be completed in 2009. An ancient structure, the Qishla, which faced the Grand Mosque, was originally an Ottoman castle. The structure was removed by the Saudi government to facilitate the construction of modern hotels and business complexes around the mosque area. The economy of Mecca is entirely dependent on the millions of Hajj pilgrims, who throng the area every year.

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