In addition to prayer, a pilgrimage to Makkah is required of every able Muslim who can afford it as one of the Five Pillars of the belief. Every year about three million of people gathered for the major pilgrimage, or Hajj, during the Muslim month of Zil-Hijjah, and many more perform the minor or lesser pilgrimage Umrah, at various times throughout the whole year.
Few non-Muslims have ever seen the rituals and rites of the Hajj, as non-Muslims are strictly forbidden from entering city Makkah and Madina. Roadblocks are stationed along roads leading to the city.
The focal point of Makkah is the Holy Kaaba, the “House of ALLAH Almighty” believed by Muslims to have been built by Hazrat Ibraheem (AS) and His son Hazrat Ismaeel (AS), and which is covered in a gold-embroidered black coloured fabric. Pilgrims circle the Holy Kaaba seven times called tawaaf and may also try to kiss or touch its cornerstone, the Hajr-e-Aswad (Black Stone). Pilgrims may drink Zamzam water from the well of Zamzam. Its water of Zamzam is believed to have extraordinary and special properties. Pilgrims return from the Hajj or Umrah with a large plastic bottle of Zamzam water. During the Hajj pilgrims travel to Mina a little village, where the Devil (shaitaan), symbolised by 3 stone columns, is ritually stoned. They then proceed to the hill of Arafat (sometimes well known as mountain, but with a height of only 70 m), a place for prayers, where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is believed to have delivered His final sermon.
The Masjid al Haram (Sacred Mosque) is for Muslims the holiest masjid on Earth. Both the masjid and the city itself are strictly off limits to non-Muslims.
Verse 3:96 of Holy Quran,
Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds.
Makkah is the sacred city which is the most beloved land in the sight of ALLAH Almighty and the selected location of His House. It was here that the final prophet and guide of the entire of mankind, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of ALLAH be on him), was born and commenced His Prophethood.
In the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of ALLAH be on him), camel caravans were a most important part of Makkah’s busy economy. Alliances were struck between the merchants in city Makkah and the local travelling tribes, who would bring goods livestock, leather and metals mined in the local mountains to city Makkah to be loaded on the caravans and carried to cities in Iraq and Syria. Historical accounts also provide several indications that goods from other continents may also have flowed through sacred city Makkah.
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