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 interesting facts about Mecca which you might just find intriguing – take a look and see what you can learn!
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 Honoured’!
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.
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.
The population of Mecca is around 2 million as of 2020.
The most expensive land in the world to purchase by square metre is in Mecca. A square metre 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!
The metropolitan area of Mecca covers 1294 square kilometres (500 square miles).
The nearest main city to Mecca is Jeddah, at a distance of 42 miles.
The nearest international airport to Mecca is located at Jeddah and is called the King Abdul-Aziz International Airport.
The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is known as the Hajj. At least once in a lifetime, all Muslims are expected to make the journey.
In 2019, it’s thought more than 8 million people alone made the pilgrimage to Mecca!
There are seven stages to Hajj. These include circling the shrine of Kaaba, undertaking prayers, and perform 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.
Some activities are banned during Hajj. These include killing animals, smoking, swearing, fighting, taking oaths and any sexual activity.
During Hajj, the city’s population can grow to approximately 4.5 million people!
Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed started Hajj in the year of his death, 632.
Women under the age of 45 who wish to participate in Hajj must currently be accompanied by a male ‘guardian’.
Ancient Islamic writings state that Allah commanded Mohammed to construct the Kaaba, which was to become the focal point of the pilgrimage.
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!
It is estimated that over the past 25 years, 54 million pilgrims have made the journey for Hajj!
After oil and gas, the globally famous pilgrimage is the greatest contributor to the GDP of the country of Saudi.
The word ‘Mecca’ has been re-adopted in English, too, to mean a popular location.
The Masjid Al Haram, in Mecca, is thought to be the most expensive building on the planet, worth around $100 billion to construct!
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!
‘Sleeping pods’ are offered to Mecca-bound pilgrims who cannot afford to pay for hotel accommodation.
The area has plans to reduce its dependency on oil and to instead focus on providing a better experience for Muslim pilgrims heading to the holy city in future.
Before Islam, Mecca was called ‘Medina’.
Until approximately 622, Medina was known as ‘Yathrib’, which means ‘oasis city’.
The Saudi Government presides over Mecca and it is governed by the Makkah Regional Municipality.
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.
The current Ruler of Saudi Arabia is King Salman, who took the throne in 2015 following the death of his half-brother King Abdullah – who was 90 years old.
The King of Saudi Arabia is head of the Government and is also ‘Custodian’ of the mosques.
The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has brought big changes to Mecca pilgrimages. Saudi has suffered more in the pandemic, at the time of writing, compared to other Middle Eastern countries.
This means that only pilgrimages are allowed in and out of the city at the time of writing, with all other tourism banned.
Pilgrims will also be unable to drink from the Well of Zamzam as they did prior to the pandemic of 2020. The water from the Holy well will now be bottled for safety.
The ritual of stoning the pillars of Mina, symbolising the rejection of the devil, has also changed due to the pandemic. All stones used in the practice are sterilised beforehand.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about Mecca that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!