Mecca Sights and Landmarks Guide, Saudi Arabia
The holiest city in Islam is Mecca or Makkah, located in Saudi Arabia. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca. This is the city where each year, around three million Muslims gather for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The city is more than 2000 years old, and according to Islamic tradition, was built by Abraham [Ibrahim] and his son Ishmael. In the ancient days, it used to be a popular caravan route as well as the crossroad of popular caravan routes and a wealthy settlement. Mecca is the home to the holiest shrine for the Muslims, Kaaba, and the mythological ZamZam well.
According to myths, Kaaba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael by the order of God. When Abraham built it, he prayed it to be the center of worship for all pious people, and requested his family's custodian for maintaining the shrine. For centuries, the guardianship of Kaaba remained in the hands of the family of Ishmael until the spread of Islam.
The ZamZam well has an equally enchanting myth. According to Islamic faith, Hajar/Hagar, the wife of Abraham, in search for water for her little son Ishmael, went up and down the two hills of Safa and Marwah seven times. The angel Jibril [ Gabriel] was then sent by God who dug a hole and let the spring out. Islamic traditions believe the water of the ZamZam well to be blessed enough to satiate both hunger and thirst and cure illness too. Muslim believers go up and down the two hills seven times like Hagar before drinking the water of Zam Zam. Today, the water of Zam Zam is distributed through pumping system throughout the Masjid Al Haram complex in Mecca and the Masjid Al Nabawi in the nearby city of Madina as well.
Masjid Al Haram, surrounding the Kaaba, is the largest mosque in the world. Up to four million worshipers visit this place during the annual Hajj.
Other places of interest for the Islamic enthusiasts are the Mina, the place for symbolic stoning of the devil, Hill of Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon, and Jabal Al Noor, where the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
Gold items, dates and the ZamZam water are the main souvenirs you can buy from Mecca. Mecca has a number of American fast food outlets, which serve the eatables sans pork. Drinking is illegal in Saudi Arabia.
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