Mecca - the sacred city of Islam

Since the time that Islam appeared, more than 14 centuries ago, Mecca attracted the interest of the entire world. For muslim believers, the city and the sacred mosque are the holy center of Islam and the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad . A great significance has, that muslims pray five times a day on the direction of the city.

From part of every believer who can awaits at least once in life to go on pilgrimage to the holy city. For those who are not muslims, Mecca is an enigmatic place being forbidden the access since the beginning of Islamic history.

Mecca is located in the center of Saudi Arabia, near the mountains Sirat. Entire city is centered around Haram Mosque. The mosque was enlarged and often embellished during its history. Now can accommodate up to 1 million believers at same time. After the Second World war, the city has expanded along the roads that pass through the mountains.

Ancient Mecca was a oasisin the old trade route that connected the mediterranean world from southern Arabia, East Africa and South Asia. The city gradually developed and in the byzantine and roman period had become an important religious and commercial center.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaba, the house of God. The central point of the pilgrimage to Mecca, before the Islam’s emerge, the building was destroyed and rebuilt often.

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During pre-Islamic period, the city was ruled by a number of tribes from Yemen. Under the leadership of Quraysh, became a sort of city-state, with strong commercial connections to the rest of Arabia, Ethiopia and Europe.

The religious importance of the city greatly increased when with the birth of Muhammad. Tge Prophet was forced to escape from Mecca in the year 622 because of his sermons. He went to Yathrib (Medina today) but after eight years returned and took control of the city. He cleaned the city of idols, declared it center of pilgrimage for all muslims and dedicated it to Allah.

With the decline of caravan routes, Mecca has lost the trade importance and had to survive mainly, from pilgrimages and muslim leaders gifts.

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The city received another hit when the Umayyad dynasty robbed it. Subsequently, had to admit the power of Caliphate of Damascus, and later that of the caliphate in Baghdad. In the year 930, the city suffered a great humiliation when shiites robbed it and stole the black stone from Kabba.

With the beginning of tenth century, the leadres were chosen from the followers of Mohammed, who controlled the surrounding areas. The ability of these leaders, initially moderated shiites, has provided the primacy on local businesses for the next 1000 years.

In 1269, Mecca fell under the control of the Mamluks, and in 1517 fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire. With the fall of empire, the city control is challenged by the ancient leaders, the followers of Muhammad and the Saudis in central Arabia, practitioners of a puritanical form of Islam. In 1925 the king Saud enter the city, and later, Mecca would become part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Under the saudi leadership, puritan form of the Islam was applied as a state creed and the conditions for pilgrims were improved. Due to excessive exploitation of the Saudi oil reserves, Mecca has seen the powerful economical development and the number of pilgrims has incresed greatly.

Despite the huge sums spent by the Saudi government to renovate the city and mosque, the huge number of pilgrims brought several tragedies. In 1990, nearly 1,500 pilgrims died in a pedestrian tunnel, trampled, and in 1997 several hundred died during a fire and in the panic that followed.

Political disorders and violence have also affected the city. In 1979 a group of militants, mostly fromed from saudis, but also from many other Islamic countries, occupied the Grand Mosque. Their disposal was only possible with a large loss of human lifes enrolling an attack of the Saudi National Guard. During the 1980s and 1990s years, Iranian pilgrims involved in political protests clashed with saudi security forces, which led to many deaths and injuries.

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