After Makkah (Mecca), the city of Madinah (Medina) in Saudi Arabia is the most important city in the world for Muslims. Often described as being relaxed and beautiful, the city has a fascinating history as well as friendly locals, mouth-watering cuisine and magnificent cultural sights.
If you are interested in learning more about this unique city and its culture, read on for five fascinating facts to know about Madinah.
- The city was renamed in honor of Prophet Muhammad.
Initially, prior to the arrival of Islam, the city was called Yathrib. However, as the town became the destination for Prophet Muhammad’s Hijrah (migration) from Makkah, the city was renamed Madinah to venerate Muhammad’s prophethood and death there.
Not only is Madinah celebrated for being where the Prophet Muhammad’s Hijrah ended, but it is also where he was able to conquer all of Arabia.
Its full name is Madinat Rasul Allah (The City of the Prophet of Allah); nevertheless, the name was condensed to Al Madinah (The City).
- It is a sanctuary of Islam.
Due to its connection with Prophet Muhammad, Madinah is of pre-eminent significance to Muslims around the world. In fact, millions of pilgrims come to Madinah every year to perform the Hijrah themselves and to state their devotions as a representation of their divine zeal.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that located in Madinah are three of the oldest mosques in the world — the Quba Mosque (the first one built during the Prophet’s time), Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, and Masjid al-Qiblatayn.
When pilgrims enter the city of Madinah, they make their way to the Prophet’s tomb which is located in the city’s chief mosque.
- Non-Muslims are not allowed in the city center.
As Madinah is a sacred area, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the city center. However, the airport is located outside of the city center, which means that travelers are still able to visit the outside areas.
For this reason, you want to opt for a hotel in Madinah near Haram, as this will enable you to encounter the incomparable beauty and culture of Madinah, while still abiding by the law (you will be deported from the country if you try to enter the city center as a non-Muslim).
- For more than two years, it was under siege.
While the history surrounding the Prophet Muhammad tends to be the most well-known period of the city’s story, it also has a lot of other tales to tell.
From 1916 to 1919, Madinah was under one of the longest sieges in history. This was during World War I and, while it was a metropolis of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the local rule was established by the Hashemite clan – Emirs of Makkah, also called “sharifs.”
The leader of the Hashemite clan — Ali bin Hussein — revolted against the Caliph in Constantinople and attacked the city for two years and seven months.
- It is a great place to “have a date.”
As Madinah is located in the most fertile part of all the Hejaz territory, its economy is mainly based on the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and cereals, the profit from the millions of pilgrims passing through, farming, and pottery.
However, the most famous produce from Madinah is the date palm which is exported all around the world. Over a hundred varieties of dates are grown in the area, which makes them the perfect souvenirs for travelers.
Restaurants in Madinah often have date dishes on their menus, as well as other local specialties such as Fatir (flatbread), Kapsa (chicken and rice) and a Laban Drink (yogurt drink). All of these are essential Saudi dishes.
Additionally, you can find a wide variety of culinary delights in the city including Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, and Turkish options.
Have you ever been to Saudi Arabia? Have you considered visiting? Do share your thoughts in the comments below!
Ali Ozbay is the Director of Marketing for Shaza Hotels. The 5-star Shaza Hotel in Al Madina combines sophistication and location in effortless style, with each suite being, by intention, an emphatic expression of generous warmth and Eastern hospitality.