What is Mecca?
Did you know that people who practice the religion of Islam are called Muslims and that when Muslims pray; no matter where they are in the world, they turn to face the city of Mecca? Mecca is Islam’s holiest city, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.
Mecca has been a sacred site since the year 628 AD and the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad. At its centre is the Grand Mosque, a very important religious building, which houses a large black rock, called the Kaaba. Muslims believe this rock was actually a huge meteorite which fell down to earth at the beginning of time and landed beside Adam and Eve. An important duty of being a Muslim, is to try and take a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual journey to Mecca. This is called a pilgrimage.
What happens during the Pilgrimage?
Every year two million Muslims from many different countries travel to Mecca to take part in the special five-day pilgrimage, called Hajj (and its shorter version called Umraa). All Muslims may attend Hajj though Muslim ladies travel with a male relative or a female group and everyone has to be mindful of certain behaviours and rituals during this time. For example, special prayers must be said and worshippers should take care not to argue with others and refrain from cutting hair and finger nails.
The most important part of the pilgrimage takes place at the Grand Mosque. Worshippers are expected to wear simple, white clothes so that no body looks any richer or poorer than anyone else. Thousands of people gather inside to perform the sacred ritual of walking seven times, counter-clockwise around the huge Kaaba rock and those close enough, try to kiss the rock as they circle it.
Holy sites around the world…
From India’s Bodh Gaya and Ghat’s of Varanisi to Australia’s Uluru…there are many other holy sites around the globe which hold significance for religious followers. As the birthplace of Jesus, the ancient Middle Eastern city of Jerusalem holds special meaning for Christians but is also an important spiritual city for Jews and Muslims.
By Deborah L. Caine (Whyzz writer)