Mecca is the most important holy city in Islam, with millions of Muslims making pilgrimages to the region year on year. The city, also known as Makkah, is based in Saudi Arabia and is thought to have huge significance with the Prophet Mohammed, who was instructed by Allah to build a shrine there. As such, more and more people are making a point of visiting the city, though the 2020 pandemic saw a number of safety measures brought in to help keep the pilgrimages open.
It is also a record-breaking city! Did you know that you are likely to pay more for land here than anywhere else in the world! What is the actual population of the city? What is the Saudi government doing to help protect pilgrims during the pandemic?
Here’s our stack of fun facts about Mecca which you might just find intriguing – take a look and see what you can learn!
1. What is Mecca’s full name?
Mecca’s full official title is in fact Makkah al-Mukarramah and is often referred to as simply Makkah. This name translates as ‘Makkah the Honored’!
2. It is a holy city only for followers of Islam to enter.
Believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed, only Muslims are allowed in the city. It’s thought that the Prophet spent most of his life in the city.
3. Mecca’s main shrine is centuries old.
The most sacred shrine of Muslims is located in Mecca and dates back to the 7th century. The Masjid al-Haram is the name of the sacred mosque housing the shrine.
4. Millions of people call the holy city home.
The population of Mecca is around 2 million as of 2020.
5. It’s the world’s most expensive land.
The most expensive land in the world to purchase by square meter is in Mecca. A square meter of land in Mecca can achieve a price of $100,000! Monte Carlo’s land is next most expensive at a cost of $47,578. That’s under half the Mecca rate!
6. Mecca is massive!
The metropolitan area of Mecca covers 1294 square kilometers (500 square miles).
7. Jeddah is Mecca’s closest neighbor.
The nearest main city to Mecca is Jeddah, at a distance of 42 miles.
8. It’s also where you’ll find the main airport access.
The nearest international airport to Mecca is located in Jeddah and is called the King Abdul-Aziz International Airport.
9. The Hajj is a huge part of Mecca’s visitation.
The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is known as the Hajj. At least once in a lifetime, all Muslims are expected to make the journey.
10. Millions of people head to Mecca every year.
In 2019, it’s thought more than 8 million people alone made the pilgrimage to Mecca!
11. What constitutes the Hajj?
There are seven stages to Hajj. These include circling the shrine of Kaaba, undertaking prayers, and performing a ritual ‘stoning of the devil’.
Post-stoning of the devil, Muslim men may shave their beards and shed their clothes.
In order to participate in Hajj, children must have reached puberty.
12. That’s a lot of space to fill!
During Hajj, the city’s population can grow to approximately 4.5 million people!
13. The Hajj started in the 7th century.
Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed started Hajj in the year of his death, 632.
14. There are strict rules to the Hajj.
Previously, women under the age of 45 who wish to participate in Hajj had to be accompanied by a male ‘mehrem’, or ‘guardian’. This rule was relaxed in 2021, as women of any age can now attend Hajj in groups – they cannot travel here alone.
15. The Hajj’s place in Mecca has been dictated since ancient times.
Ancient Islamic writings state that Allah commanded Mohammed to construct the Kaaba, which was to become the focal point of the pilgrimage.
16. The Hajj brings in a lot of tourism to Saudi Arabia, too.
Hajj and the Umra pilgrimage jointly deliver approximately $12 billion annually to the Saudi GDP! Approximately half of that sum comes from Hajj alone! The total sum represents 7% of the total GDP of the nation.
Financial experts predict that by the year 2022, $150 billion will be raised by the pilgrimages!
17. Tens of millions have made their first Mecca pilgrimages.
It is estimated that over the past 25 years, 54 million pilgrims have made the journey for Hajj!
18. Pilgrimage is only second to fuel here!
After oil and gas, the globally famous pilgrimage is the greatest contributor to the GDP of the country of Saudi.
19. Mecca’s now an English word, too.
The word ‘Mecca’ has been re-adopted in English, too, to mean a popular location.
20. Pricey buildings abound here, too!
The Masjid Al Haram, in Mecca, is thought to be the most expensive building on the planet, worth around $100 billion to construct!
21. The hotel industry is booming near the city.
Commercial companies in travel and hospitality benefit from Hajj. Several luxury hotels have been constructed in the area and those offering suites with views of the sacred shrine and mosque can charge up to $5,380 per night!
However, ’sleeping pods’ are offered to Mecca-bound pilgrims who cannot afford to pay for hotel accommodation.
22. The general Mecca area is moving away from oil.
The area has plans to reduce its dependency on oil and instead focus on providing a better experience for Muslim pilgrims heading to the holy city in the future.
23. It wasn’t always known as Mecca.
Before Islam, Mecca was called ‘Medina’. Until approximately 622, Medina was known as ‘Yathrib’, which means ‘oasis city’.
24. A tall order!
Mecca is home to what is thought to be the highest prayer room on the planet. While only small, the room is around 600m above the sea and can be found in the Royal Tower of the Makkah Clock. It’s also the closest prayer room to the sacred Kaaba.
25. COVID-19 brought a blow to Mecca and the Hajj.
The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 brought big changes to Mecca pilgrimages. Saudi has suffered more in the pandemic, at the time of writing, compared to other Middle Eastern countries. For example, activities, where there would normally be larger crowds, were effectively curtailed!
FAQs about Mecca
Can non-Muslims ever visit Mecca?
No - unless you follow Islam, you cannot enter the main holy city of Mecca itself.
How much does Hajj cost on average?
The average Muslim is likely to spend at least $3,000, equivalent, during Hajj. However, costs can be much higher!
Do I need to be vaccinated to attend Hajj?
As of 2021, the health ministry in Saudi Arabia advised that all Hajj attendees to Mecca must be vaccinated against COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
Do you know any fun facts about Mecca? Share them in the comments below!