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مكة المكرّمة Makka al-Mukarrama
Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
Red pog.svg
Coordinates 21 ° 25 ′  N , 39 ° 50 ′  E Coordinates: 21 ° 25 ′  N , 39 ° 50 ′  E
Basic data
Country Saudi Arabia


height 300 m
surface 850 km²
Residents 1,484,858 (2010)
density 1,746.9  Ew. / km²
Website (Arabic)
mayor Osama Al-Bar
The al-Haram mosque in the center of Mecca
The al-Haram mosque in the center of Mecca
The Kaaba after Friday prayers
Animation of the city of Mecca

Mecca ( Arabic مكة, DMG Makka ) is a city with 1,484,858 inhabitants (as of 2010) in western Saudi Arabia and with the Holy Mosque and the Kaaba the central place of pilgrimage of Islam . Every year around 2.5 million Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj , while non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the city. Mecca is the capital of the Mecca province in the Hejaz region . Due to the great religious significance that the city has in Islam, it is usually given an honorable epithet in Arabic and asمكة المكرّمة Makka al-Mukarrama means 'Mecca, the venerable'.

Importance to Islam

Mecca is considered the native city of Muhammad , the prophet of Islam . The most important pilgrimage destination is the Kaaba , a windowless, rectangular building in the courtyard of the main mosque, which, according to Islamic belief, was first built by the prophet Adam and then rebuilt by the prophet Abraham . It is historically certain that the Kaaba was a central sanctuary for the Arab tribes of the surrounding area as early as pre-Islamic times. In its southeast corner there is a black stone - possibly a meteorite (Hajar al-Aswad), which, according to tradition, the prophet Abraham received from the angel Gabriel .

Non-Muslims in Mecca

Around the city of Mecca there is a sacred area that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter; since the beginning of the Houthi conflict (2015) not by Yemenis either . Roadblocks shield the city from visiting non-Muslims.

In the past centuries, however, some European travelers, mostly disguised as Muslims, managed to get to Mecca. These included the enslaved Landsknecht Hans Wild (between 1607 and 1609), the German explorer Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (1809), the Basel-born Jean Louis Burckhardt (1814), who was known for his discovery of the old Nabatean capital Petra , and the German orientalist and researcher Heinrich von Maltzan , who, disguised as a Muslim, visited Mecca in 1860 with a passport obtained by bribing an Arab. In 1853, the English adventure traveler Richard Francis Burton provided a detailed description of Mecca after taking part in all the major religious ceremonies disguised as a dervish . The Dutch Islamic scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje also stayed in Mecca at the end of the 19th century under a false identity. The result of his study trip was a two-volume work ( Mekka , published 1889), which consists of a text and an illustrated book with photographs.

In 1979 members of the French Groupe d'intervention de la gendarmerie nationale were involved in the crackdown on the occupation of the Great Mosque in Mecca with a special permit from the Saudi military .


Mecca is about 90 km from the Red Sea between the coastal plain and the highlands in a desert-like basin, enclosed between two mountain ranges. The lower part of the city around the Kaaba is the older settlement core; the upper town is in the north. Because of the numerous mountains and hills protruding into the urban area, it was necessary to build several road tunnels.


The population of Mecca has grown rapidly in recent years. It exceeded the million mark for the first time in the 1990s and was 1.9 million for the agglomeration in 2017. A further increase to 2.5 million inhabitants is expected by 2035.

Population development of the agglomeration according to the UN

year population
1950 148,000
1960 157,000
1970 272,000
1980 501,000
1990 856,000
2000 1,168,000
2010 1,543,000
2017 1,908,000

Urban development

In recent years, Mecca has grown significantly by almost 200,000 inhabitants annually. This is accompanied by urban redevelopment. B. makes particularly noticeable around the holy places. Today, the greater Mecca area is shaped by the infrastructural facilities that accommodate, feed and transport the pilgrims. Whole hill settlements that were previously low and loosely built were removed and the areas straightened to make space for large buildings, especially pilgrim hotels. To the south of the Great Holy Mosque, a massive hotel complex was built by the end of 2012, with the highest of the Abraj Al Bait Towers at 601 meters forming the new city crown.


Mecca has only one small airport with no scheduled services. The Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport and the port of Jeddah are therefore important infrastructures for the pilgrims. A metro between the pilgrimage sites was opened in 2010, and further metro lines are planned. Since October 11, 2018, a high-speed line has been connecting Mecca with Jeddah and Medina.


Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Mecca
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 30.4 31.5 35.2 38.0 41.6 43.8 43.1 42.6 42.8 39.6 35.1 31.2 O 37.9
Min. Temperature (° C) 18.1 18.1 20.8 23.6 26.9 27.6 28.6 28.6 28.3 25.3 22.6 19.5 O 24
Precipitation ( mm ) 5 2 6th 14th 0.3 0 0 6th 2 4th 10 27 Σ 76.3
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 8.4 8.7 9.1 9.4 9.8 10.7 10.1 9.6 9.4 9.7 8.8 8.0 O 9.3
Humidity ( % ) 58 54 49 44 39 34 34 37 45 50 59 61 O 47
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

A constant in the history of Mecca is the massive flooding caused by rains that plague the city at regular intervals. The modern scholar Rushdī as-Sālih Malhas counts a total of 85 major floods that flooded Mecca from the beginnings of Islam up to 1931. The water mostly flowed from Minā through the Wādī Ibrāhīm down to the lower part of the city. To protect the city from these floods, various dams were built in Mecca over and over again in the course of history, which were supposed to bypass the water past the holy places, but never offered complete protection.


Picture from Mecca; painted in the 18th century

The early history of the city according to Islamic tradition

The early history of Mecca is in the dark. What is certain is that there was a shrine here in pre-Islamic times and that it was the destination of a pilgrimage. According to Islamic tradition, the settlement of Mecca began when the ancestor Abraham brought his concubine Hagar and their son Ishmael to this place. He asked God to provide for his family and to let people's hearts be drawn to them. The Qur'anic word in Sura 14 : 37 is related to this: “Our Lord, I have let (some) of my descendants live in a valley without plantings near your sheltered house, our Lord, so that they may perform prayer. So let the hearts of some of the people bend towards them and provide them with fruit so that they may be grateful. ”The legend continues:“ When the water supplies ran out, Hagar ran a total of seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa to look for water or caravans. ”After she returned to her tent, she found next to her son Ishmael a bubbling spring that still exists today and is known as Zamzam .

Around the same time, two tribes from Yemen, Jurhum and Qatūrā, settled in Mecca. Ishmael later married a woman from the Jurhum tribe. When Abraham later returned to Mecca, he and Ishmael built the Kaaba. Ishmael kept control of the Kaaba and also of the Jurhum tribe throughout his life. After his death, his father-in-law Mudād ibn ʿAmr took over the supervision of the sanctuary and also the leadership of the tribe. The Jurhum settled in the area above the Kaaba, while the Qatūrā under their leader as-Sumaidiʿ took possession of the lower part of the city.

After some time, groups from the South Arabian Azd tribe took possession of the Mecca lowlands. While most of the Azd groups moved on from there to other areas of the Arabian Peninsula, only the Chuzāʿa group remained in Mecca. The Chuzāʿa, who developed into their own tribe, are held responsible in Islamic tradition for the introduction of idolatry in Mecca. They are also said to have built the first dam to protect the city from flooding.

The Quraysh come to power

View of the city of Mecca (in the foreground the Great Mosque ) from the top of the Abraj Al Bait Towers

During the early 6th century, the Quraish tribe took control of the city of Mecca. The Quraish were able to establish themselves as successful traders and build a system of alliances with other Arab tribes. Close relations existed above all with the tribe of the Banū Sulaim , whose main residential area was between Mecca and Medina. Inside, however, the Quraish tribe was shaped by clan rivalries.

The Kaaba was already the destination of a pilgrimage at this time and was venerated by the Arab tribes as the sanctuary of the god Hubal . In addition to worshiping Allah, the pre-Islamic Kaaba cult also includes worshiping the ancient Arabic deities al-Lāt , Manāt and Uzza . The political and social center of the city was the Dār an-Nadwa , a meeting house where the Quraish council took place and the most important rites of passage were celebrated.

The streams of pilgrims may have contributed to Mecca developing into a trading center, although it itself produced little and had little strategic value. However, some historians argue that Mecca gained its importance primarily because of its location. It was on the way of the two-month journey from Byzantium to the Yemeni kingdoms of Saba , Ma'in , Qataban , Ausan and Hadramaut , which had close trade contacts with India and East Africa . To what extent Mecca benefited from the incense trade is debatable. Together with Ta'if and Yathrib , Mecca formed one of the three great cities of the Hejaz during this period . As the city was in a dry and barren valley, it was completely dependent on the food produced in Tāʾif.

Islamization of Mecca

Around 610, the founder of Islam , Mohammed , began to preach publicly in Mecca and to call for a new monotheistic religion. Due to the persistent resistance of the Quraish to his new teaching, he emigrated with his followers to the city of Yathrib (later known as Medina ) in the summer of 622 , where numerous members of the Aus and Khazradsch tribes had already joined his religion. From Yathrib, Mohammed took up the fight against the non-Islamic Meccans. The military conflict between him and the city of Mecca can be divided into four phases:

  1. In the first phase, which lasted until 624, Mohammed and his supporters who had emigrated from Mecca attacked Meccan trade caravans . Since the number of participants in these actions was relatively small and the Meccans had their caravans well protected, these attacks, called Maghāzī , were relatively unsuccessful.
  2. The second phase, in which open battles were waged, began in March 624 with an attack by Muslims on a trade caravan led by Abū Sufyān ibn Harb . A Meccan army of about 800 or 900 men, which hurried to the aid of the caravan, was defeated by a considerably smaller number of Muslims near Badr (about 130 km southwest of Yathrib). Since the Meccans had a reputation for being the most powerful group in Arabia, and the success of their businesses depended on maintaining that reputation, they were in great danger of being defeated at the Battle of Badr . They therefore prepared for a counter-attack to avenge the blood of those who had fallen at Badr . At Mount Uhud in the northwest of the oasis of Yathrib there was a battle in March 625 , in which this time the Meccans were victorious. In the period that followed, the Meccans forged an alliance with several nomadic and various Jewish tribes and prepared an invasion of Yathrib. With about 10,000 men they appeared in front of the city in March 627 and began to siege it. However, since the Muslims had developed a new defense strategy by digging trenches and were also able to persuade the Ghatafān tribe to withdraw from the alliance with Mecca, the Meccans finally had to leave without having achieved anything.
  3. The third phase, which lasted about three years (March 627 to the end of 629), was characterized by relatively peaceful relations between the Muslims and the Meccans. In March 628, the two parties signed a ten-year ceasefire agreement at al-Hudaibiya . As a result, both Mohammed and the Meccans were entitled to add new groups to their alliance. While the Kināna then joined the Meccans, the Chuzāʿa allied with Mohammed.
  4. The fourth, relatively short phase, at the end of which was the surrender of the city, began with an attack by the Kināna Bakr ibn ʿAbd Manāt on members of the Chuzāʿa. To prevent the situation from escalating, the Meccans sent Abū Sufyān ibn Harb , who had been related to Mohammed since his daughter Umm Habība married Mohammed in 627, to Yathrib to renew the peace treaty with the Muslims. However, the negotiations were unsuccessful. When Mohammed marched before Mecca in January 630 with an army of around 10,000 men, which in addition to Muhādschirūn and Ansār also included numerous members of other tribes such as the Banū Sulaim and Muzaina , Abū Sufyān met him and conducted the contact talks. In return for his conversion to Islam, he received a security guarantee for all those residents of Mecca who did not offer armed resistance. The far-reaching guarantees meant that Muhammad's army encountered almost no resistance when they entered the city. A balance of interests with the Meccans was helped by the fact that a little later Mohammed directed his army against the Hawāzin, a powerful tribe that was hostile to both Muslims and Meccans and, after the victory in the Battle of Hunain, gave the Meccans very generously in dividing their booty . A quick reconciliation of interests with former opponents from Mecca was also facilitated by the fact that Mohammed confirmed in these offices the families from the Quraish, who had previously exercised the ritual offices in Mecca.

History in Islamic Times

General plan of Mecca from 1814
Mecca, 1889. On the hill to the left the former Adschjad fortress .
The Abraj Al Bait Towers are the third tallest building in the world.

Islam has adopted the cult of the black stone of the Kaaba from the ancient Arabic religion into Islam, as has the pilgrimage to Mecca. The rites associated with the pilgrimage were now attributed to Abraham .

After another heavy rain flooded the city in 638, ʿUmar ibn al-Chattāb had a new dam built in the upper part of the city to protect the Holy Mosque from further flooding. In the following years, the mosque of Mecca was enlarged several times, for example during the rule of the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi (r. 775-785) by his governor Jafar ibn Sulaimān. When there was a great drought in 809/810, Zubaida bint Jafar , the wife of Hārūn ar-Rashīd , built a pipeline that carried water from ʿAyn al-Mushāsh and Hunain to Mecca. This line formed the basis of the Meccan water supply in the 9th century.

From the late 10th century, the city was ruled by the Sherif of Mecca . They submitted to different ruling houses one after the other, first the Fatimids , then the Ayyubids , the Rasulids and the Mamluks of Egypt. In 1326 Amīr Tschūpān put the Meccan water supply back on a more stable basis with the uncovering and repair of the water pipe of ʿAin Bāzān . In order to increase the water flow in the line in dry phases, the line was provided with additional inlets over time. In addition, the line had to be repaired and cleaned frequently, as the pipes regularly clogged with earth and debris during floods.

From 1517 Mecca was under the rule of the Ottomans . During this time the city was of particular importance for the Muslims of Southeast Asia . Several sultans of the Malay archipelago received letters of appointment from the Sherif of Mecca. In addition, the motive of the Islamization of one's own dynasty by envoys from Mecca was an important element in the legitimation of rule. Muslims from Southeast Asia made up the largest contingent of pilgrims in Mecca in the 19th century.

The Grand Sherif Hussein ibn Ali , who later became King of the Hejaz, overthrew Turkish rule over Mecca in 1916. In October 1924 the Wahhabi Ichwān of Sultan Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud took Mecca and King Husain had to flee. Shortly after this event, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz invited to a congress in Mecca, which was supposed to reconcile the Muslims with the Saudi rule. After ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz was elevated to king in January 1926, the plans for this congress took on more concrete forms. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz sent telegrams to various Muslim politicians and organizations urging them to attend the event in order to secure the future of the pilgrimage sites and improve the comfort for the pilgrims. The congress then took place in June / July 1926.

From November 20 to December 5, 1979, a terrorist attack with hostage-taking on the great mosque took place in Mecca , in the course of which more than 1,000 people were possibly killed.

See also


  • Richard Francis Burton : Personal account of a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Edition Erdmann, Lenningen 2005, ISBN 3-86503-029-7 .
  • Gerd Frank: To Mecca! Prohibited trips to the Holy City. Bad Honnef: Horlemann 1998. ISBN 3-89502-075-3 (Collection of seventeen travel reports on visits by Europeans in Mecca (1504–1955)).
  • Al-Balādhurī : Kitāb Futūḥ al-Buldān. Edited by Michael Jan de Goeje . Brill, Leiden 1866, pp. 35-55. - German Translated by Oskar Rescher : El-Beladori's "Kitâb futûh el-buldân" (Book of the Conquest of Lands) . Leipzig 1917, pp. 33-52. Digitized
Secondary literature
  • Patricia Crone : Meccan Trade And The Rise Of Islam. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1987, ISBN 1-59333-102-9 .
  • Walter Dostal: "Mecca before the time of the prophet - attempt of an anthropological interpretation" in Der Islam 68/2 (1991) 193-231.
  • Suraiya Faroqhi: ruler of Mecca. The story of the pilgrimage . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf et al. 2000, ISBN 3-7608-1227-9 .
  • Barbara Finster: Mecca and Medina in early Islamic times. In: Roads of Arabia - Archaeological Treasures from Saudi Arabia. [Exhibition catalog]. Ed .: Museum for Islamic Art - State Museums in Berlin. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-88609-721-0 , pp. 225-235.
  • GR Hawting: Origins of the Muslim Sanctuary at Mecca. In: GHA Juynboll (Ed.): Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society. Carbondale / Edwardsville 1982, pp. 23-40.
  • John W. Jandora, "The Rise of Mecca. Geopolitical factors" in Muslim World 85 (1995) 333-344. - Reprinted in Abdullah Saeed (ed.): Islamic Political Thought and Governance. Critical Concepts in Political Science . 4 Vols. Routledge, London and New York, 2011. Vol. I, pp. 41-51.
  • Barbara Keller-Heinkele: The holy places Mecca and Medina in Ottoman times . In: Roads of Arabia - Archaeological Treasures from Saudi Arabia. [Exhibition catalog]. Ed .: Museum for Islamic Art - State Museums in Berlin. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-88609-721-0 , pp. 239-257.
  • Ali Kazuyoshi Nomachi / Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Mecca. Frederking and Thaler, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-89405-369-0
  • Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje : Mecca . Volume I: The city and its masters ; The Hague 1888. Volume II: From today's life . The Hague 1889.
  • Ferdinand Wüstenfeld : History of the city of Mecca, edited from the Arabic chronicles. Leipzig 1861 ( ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Mecca  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Mecca  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Page no longer available , search in web archives: 2Template: Toter Link /
  2. Mecca . Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  3. Sanaa demo protests Saudi 'banning Yemenis from hajj' | News, Middle East | THE DAILY STAR. Retrieved January 21, 2019 .
  4. An impossible mission. In: Der Spiegel. June 22, 1981.
  5. World Urbanization Prospects - Population Division - United Nations. Retrieved July 23, 2018 .
  6. ^ Ingrid Thurner: Destination Mecca. In: Hans Hopfinger, Harald Pechlaner, Silvia Schön, Christian Antz (eds.): Cultural factor spirituality and tourism. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-503-14116-6 , pp. 115-142.
  7. Report on the English language website of El País, accessed on July 22, 2011
  8. his edition of al-Azraqī : Aḫbār Makka wa-mā ǧāʾa fī-hā min al-āṯār. 2 volumes. Dār al-Andalus, Beirut, undated Volume II, pp. 310–326.
  9. Malhas p. 166.
  10. ^ A b G. R. Hawting: Origins of the Muslim Sanctuary at Mecca. P. 23.
  11. ^ Ferdinand Wüstenfeld: History of the city of Mecca, edited from the Arabic chronicles. Sections 8–9.
  12. Al-Balādhurī : Kitāb Futūḥ al-Buldān. Edited by Michael Jan de Goeje . Brill, Leiden 1866, p. 16f - Dt. Translated by Oskar Rescher . Leipzig 1917, p. 14. Digitized .
  13. ^ Ferdinand Wüstenfeld: History of the city of Mecca, edited from the Arabic chronicles. Section 119.
  14. Michael Lecker: The Banū Sulaym. A Contribution to the Study of Early Islam. Jerusalem 1989. pp. 107-140.
  15. ^ William Bernstein: A Splendid Exchange - How Trade Shaped the World . London: Atlantic Books 2009. ISBN 978-1-84354-803-4 , p. 68.
  16. The classification follows Elias Shoufany: Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia . Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1973. pp. 15-27.
  17. Shoufany: Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia . 1973, p. 16.
  18. Shoufany: Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia . 1973, pp. 17-20.
  19. Shoufany: Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia . 1973, pp. 20-22.
  20. al-Balāḏurī: Kitāb Futūḥ al-Buldān. 1866, p. 35. - Dt. Translated by Oskar Rescher . Leipzig 1917, p. 33.
  21. Shoufany: Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia . 1973, pp. 22-27.
  22. ^ Ferdinand Wüstenfeld: History of the city of Mecca, edited from the Arabic chronicles. § 120.
  23. al-Balādhurī : Kitāb Futūḥ al-Buldān. Ed. Michael Jan de Goeje . Brill, Leiden, 1866. p. 7. - Dt. Translated by Oskar Rescher . P. 5.
  24. Fritz Schulze: Descent and Islamization as motives for legitimizing rule in traditional Malay historiography. Wiesbaden 2004. pp. 85-92.
  25. Snouck Hurgronje II 295-393.
  26. ↑ on this Martin Kramer: Islam Assembled. The Advent of the Muslim Congresses . New York: Columbia University Press 1986. pp. 106-119.