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The Two Holy Cities

The Two Holy Cities

Mekka Al Mukarama


Within Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world, Mekka and Madina hold special religious significance.  Mekka,  the home of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) and also the birth place of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) is the focal point to which all Muslims turn in prayer. The center of Mekka is the Kabba, the first house of worship originally built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ishmael.  The largest Masjid in the world is Masjid al Haram which surrounds the Kabba.  The Masjid has a large outdoor terrace which is continually cleaned leaving its white marble floors reflecting the bright light during the day and the floodlights at night.  The large space allows for the influx of people in Hajj season, during which up to 4 million Muslims congregate. It is a place that never sleeps as people travel from all over the world to spend their days and nights in worship and remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim’s near sacrifice of Ishmael, as well as Hajar’s search for water to care of Ishmael when they first arrived in Mekka.
 

     
  It is this struggle to find water which resulted in the discovery of the Zam Zam (زمزم) well.  Today this amazing well delivers most water to the area as well as the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the Masjid throughout the year.  This water is renowned for its curative and nutritional benefits which makes it a desired drink for the Muslim.  The culture of Mekka is in continues growth due to the many nationalities traveling to the city in preparation for Hajj.  It is common to find food and clothing booths offering residents a variety of products from places like Sudan, Yemen, Syria and other locals such as Indonesia, Ukraine and Russia. This influx of people has also influenced the local cuisine which includes the Najdi Kabsa or Yemani Haneeth
Madina

Originally called Yathrib, Madina is the second holiest city in Islam.  This is the city to which the Prophet Mohammed migrated when he left his hometown of Mekka and is where he was buried.  The city is also known as Al-Madīnat(u) 'l-Munawwarah which means enlightened city as it was the location of the first Muslim community.  Interesting facts about the city include the old wall surrounding parts of the city, sometimes 12 meters high as well as watchtowers and an old castle higher up on a rocky area.  Additionally, there are four gates to the city; the Egyptian gate or the “door of peace” is well-known for its unique beauty.  Muslim visitors who go to Madina usually visit Qubba’a Masjid, the hill where the battle of Uhud took place and the nearby Al Baqi cemetery where the companions of the Prophet are buried.  Those who visit Madina also notice the unique architecture of the surrounding buildings with their intricate enclosed balconies and latticed shutters which provide not only beauty but also relief from the heat of the sun.

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