Mecca (Makkah) has a resident population of 650,000 which more than triples during the annual Hajj. Non-Muslims have been forbidden entry to the city since 630CE when Mohammad made Mecca (Makkah) the centre of the Muslim faith. Forced into exile in Medina in 622, Mohammad established a model Islamic community in Medina but returned to take Mecca (Makkah) in 629, purifying the Kaaba of its idols before spreading the word of Islam. The Kaaba is enclosed by the Great Mosque, the focus of Muslim worship.
The healing waters of the Zam Zam well flow nearby, miraculously appearing over 4,000 years ago to save Abrahams son Ishmael from dehydration in the Meccan desert. In a city where the inhabitants centre their lives around the spiritual thrust of the city, Mecca (Makkah) is a place of pilgrimage devoted to God where the five prayers pace every day. In Mecca (Makkah), time runs according to the divine. Pronounced ma-KAH, it is one of the most recognisable Islamic words in the world.