*Includes pictures *Includes footnotes and a bibliography for further reading *Includes a table of contents "There is no doubt in the sanctity of Mecca, but a donkey won't become a Hajj pilgrim by just going through the motions.â€ - Rahman Baba The reason for the existence of most of the world's cities is obvious to the student of geography. New York and Shanghai control deep ports and straddle great rivers bringing trade from the interior; Paris and London are at the crossing points of major cross-country rivers; Johannesburg sits atop a great mountain of gold ore; and Moscow and Madrid are at the heart of their great nations, easily able to control even the more distant corners of the land. Mecca, however, is different, as the city exists solely because it is holy. Even centuries before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, the leaders of Mecca established that their city was the pre-eminent holy site in western Arabia and established a truce for pilgrims to the city. In the process, one effect of this was that Mecca became a center for might today be described as tourism, as even ancient visitors needed places for food, water, and sleep. At the same time, they could make offerings in the temples and leave with mementos of their time in Mecca. Many also found it convenient to bring their trade goods to the markets of Mecca, where they could find visitors bringing interesting wares from across the region, and the city also enjoyed the status of a trade center. Of course, Mecca is now best known for being Islamâ€™s holiest city, revered as the birthplace of Muhammad and the site where Allah first revealed the Quâ€™ran to him. Within Mecca is the Kaâ€™aba, a building housed within the Al-Masjid al-Haram (Great Mosque) that is considered the holiest site, and wherever they are in the world, Muslims face in the direction of the Kaâ€™aba while praying. A pilgrimage to Mecca is considered a necessity for devout Muslims at some point in their lives, and the city itself is off limits to non-Muslims. Indeed, Mecca is so integral to Islam that the name of the city has entered the English lexicon and is a commonplace reference to any area closely associated with something (such as Paris often being called the mecca of fashion). Mecca has always been central to the faith, but it has had a somewhat turbulent geopolitical history, both because of conflicts within Islam and among neighboring nations in the Middle East. As a result, its history is often overlooked, even as most people are quite familiar with the city. Mecca: The History of Islamâ€™s Holiest City traces the history of the most important site in Islam. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about Mecca like never before, in no time at all.