Mecca (Makkah) is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, and the most sacred of the Muslim holy cities.
The city's location on several trade routes has made it commercially important since ancient times. Population (1994 estimate) 1,500,000. Nearby is the city of Jiddah.
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Mecca was a religious center before the time of Muhammad, and several holy sites within the sacred precincts of the great mosque, called al-Haram, had religious significance in pre-Islamic times.
The Kaaba (or Caaba) is a windowless cube-shaped building in the courtyard of the mosque.
In the southeastern corner of the Kaaba is the Black Stone. Nearby is the sacred well, called the Zamzam (Zemzem).
Major cities near Mecca: