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> 2009 New Muslim Umra Tour
The Holy City of Makkah lies inland, some 73 km east of
Jeddah, in a narrow & what used to be a sandy valley. The land consists of rugged, rocky
(predominantly granite) terrain, with mountain ranges on three sides (to the
west, south and east). There are three main entrances to the Holy City; Al-Muallat, Al-Misfalah and
Jabal Hira also known as Jabal Noor, to the northeast, is the site of the cave where the Prophet
Muhammad, peace be upon him, sought peace for contemplation and where he
received the first verse of the Holy Quran.
The Masjid al Haram is Makkah & Makkah is
Masjid al Haram!
The city also offers some barely preserved
exquisite traditional style locales and much of the recent western style
development of tall skyscrapers and buzzing shops. The new developments though
facilitates much comfort but challenges worshippers to maintain a focused
The recent expansion of Masjid Al Haram took
place between 1988 & 1992 doubling the congregation capacity to more than one million worshippers
at any one time. Included in the new extension are two new 89-meter-tall minarets. In addition, three massive domes, each 15 meters in diameter and 30
meters high are also added.
A multilevel ablution complex houses 1,440 toilets and 1091 ablution units
to serve worshippers. Hundreds of drinking fountains provides chilled water, transported to the Holy Mosque
through an underground service tunnel.
An air-conditioning system was installed to cool the new extension. The
system is located in a six-story structure set some distance away and containing
more than one hundred chiller units with a potential cooling capacity of nearly
38,500 tons. The cool air is pumped through insulated pipes to vents set into
the interior columns, with used air sucked out through adjacent vents. The
system has the capacity to pump chilled air through the network at an increased
pressure in order to push out the hot air entering the Mosque through the open
arcades surrounding the Mataaf.
Scores of shops traditional and modern surround
the Masjid al Haram complex. Makkah is also the home of Umm al Qura University
and Islamic World League (Rabita al Islami). Close to Makkah is the place where
the Hudaybiyyah treaty was signed.
Al-Madinah Al-Munawarrah has many other names such as Taibah, Yathrib, the City of the
Messenger, and Dar Al-Hijra (i.e. Home of Immigration). It is the city whose
people supported Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) when he migrated from Makkah. It comprises the Mosque of the Prophet,
Jannat al-Baqi (where several Prophet's family members and many companions are
laid to rest), the Madinah Islamic University, Holy Quran Printing Complex,
Grounds of Uhud, and many
Just like the Masjid al Haram in Makkah, the
Masjid al Haram in Madinah also went through major expansion. The expansion benefited
from latest technology
used for climatic control in the large open courtyards that are integral to the
design of the mosque. This involves an innovative system of sliding domes and
umbrellas which are deployed during the hot hours of the day to contain the
circulating chilled air, and retracted during the cool hours of the night to
allow the release of accumulated warm air. The 27 domes have interiors of
Moroccan cedar, carved with splendid traditional designs. Each of the twelve
mechanized retractable umbrellas, six in each of the courtyards, is 17 meters by
18 meters across and stands 17 meters high, and the armatures extend to carry
covers which together give shade to almost 300 square meters. The shading
material is made of special micro-porous Teflon fabric, self-cleaning in the
sun's ultra-violet light.
Since it is one of the largest structures in the world, the
Prophet's Mosque at Madinah and its new extension required an innovative air
conditioning system. This is located some seven kilometers away at a chiller
plant which houses the world's largest air-cooled condenser, and pumps a total
of 17,000 gallons of chilled water per minute through pipes that run under the
highway to the city and into the basement of the mosque. There, the chilled
water passes through huge air handling units, and the cooled air is filtered
through insulated ducting to be distributed from vents set into the base of each
column to create a cool and comfortable ambiance for worshippers throughout the
The 2,017 columns throughout the Mosque, including those that carry the
umbrellas, are clad in white marble, cut with expert care
to ensure a seamless fitting. The columns are crowned with brass ornamental
capitals and lighting fixtures. The brass is echoed in the 68 chandeliers that
illuminate the interior, and white marble covers the 82,000 square meters
of the floor, the stairways leading to the vast roof area, and the roof itself.
The exterior walls feature local granite.
Crimson granite from the area of Najran was used for the decorative pillars in
the mosque's windows. Dark pink granite from north of Raniyya was used for the
external skirting. From Qasim Province came the pale pink granite that clads the
exterior walls, and the gray granite that forms the steps and entrances. Each
entrance features massive teakwood double doors, weighing two and a half tons.
These doors are made using centuries-old technique without screws or
glue. They are embellished with ornamental brass and gold.
For the 208 ornamental windows, the stained glass work reflects another
traditional Islamic craft, the geometric designs executed by hand by skilled
artisans. Also hand made are the fine ceramic tiles that cover, inside and
outside the seven domes.
The name Jeddah meaning the "Ancestor of
Women" is attributable to the tomb in the city which is believed to belong
to Eve. Today, it is not however possible to see that interesting place since
the Saudi Arabian government had the tomb destroyed for the reason that it would
instigate perversions in the religion. Jeddah which gained importance during the
Ottoman rule, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hejaz and later came under
the British control. It joined the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1927.
The second largest city after Riyadh, it is the main port of the Kingdom on
the Red Sea and main gate through which most of the pilgrims arrive by air and
sea to perform Umrah, Haj or to visit the two holy mosques. Area inhabited is
more than 1,500 km, and population is more than one and half million. Jeddah is
an industrial and active commercial center, with modern features, squares and
courtyards. It is an important tourism center, with an eighty kilometer long
beautiful corniche on the Red Sea coast. Jeddah also comprises the King Abdul
Aziz University, King Abdul Aziz International Airport and Jeddah Islamic Port.
King Fahd Fountain is located inside the Red Sea, near the coast, is an
outstanding feature of the port of Jeddah particularly during the night when it
sends beautiful colored water up to two hundred and sixty meters.
Red Sea port of Jiddah, located mid-way along the Western coast of the
Kingdom, is a bustling, thriving city and seaport. Its location on the ancient
trade routes and its status as the seaport and airport for hajjis visiting the
Holy City of Makkah have ensured that Jiddah is the most cosmopolitan of all
Saudi Arabia's cities.
By the end of the 1970s (1391 AH), the population of Jiddah was estimated to
be close to one million. By 1986 (1406/07 AH), the estimated population was 1.4
million. With an estimated growth rate in excess of 10%, the population by 1993
(1413/14AH) had passed the two million mark.
The extraordinary growth of Jiddah, demanded by the Kingdom's development
programs, has been achieved in a remarkably short period. (The expansion of the
sea port's capacity is a case study of what can be achieved if the will, the
management and the resources are available.) At the same time, aesthetic
considerations have not been ignored. Jiddah now boasts some of the most
beautiful examples of modern architecture in the world. Tree-lined avenues and
the generous distribution of bronze sculptures attest to the success of the
city's beautification program.
Jiddah's Corniche is one of the city's most impressive and pleasing features.
Taking advantage of its long sea shore, the city has constructed a three-part
corniche, 20 miles in length, which provides recreational facilities and superb
views of the sea for citizens and visitors.
Taif (which lies south east of Jiddah and the Holy City of Makkah) stands
1,800 meters above sea-level on the eastern slopes of the Al-Sarawat mountains.
Its cooler temperatures have made it a traditional summer resort for both these
cities and, in the summer months, the seat of government is moved from the dry
heat of Riyadh to the more equable climate of Taif.
Taif embraced Islam in the ninth year of the Hijra. It was amongst the first
cities, after Madinah, to accept the word of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
Taif is famous for its agricultural produce which includes grapes and
The City of Taif is located in the western part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
and is administered by the Emirate of Makka Makkah Al-Mukkaramah regions.
Taif, with its deep rooted history that dated back to thousands of years is
famous for its gardens and good quality agricultural production on top of which
are grapes, pomegranates and honey. The elevation of the city by about two
thousand meters above sea level, makes it one of the important resorts in the
Kingdom. A modern net work of roads link Taif to Makkah Al-Mukaramah, Al-Madinah
Al-Munawwarah and Riyadh. The most important of these roads are Taif-Riyadh and
Taif-Makkah-Jeddah road which passes through the high Hada mountains, and is one
of the most outstanding achievements in the technology of road construction.
Thousands of vacationers from the Kingdom and other Arab Gulf states spend the
summer season in Taif resort to enjoy its green scenery and beautiful parks, the
largest of which is King Fahd Park with a total area of 175 square kilometers.
There are also other resort sites near Taif such as Al-Shifa and Al-Hada.
Taif now covers a total area of about eight hundred hectares, whereas the
area of the city did not exceed two and half square kilometers in 1951, which
indicates the great expansion which the city of more than three hundred and
fifty thousands population has witnessed.
The main attractions include the souq, which is considered the most authentic
in the Hejaz. In many alleyways lined with shops, the casual shopper can find
carpets, tents, traditional embroidered dresses, hand-crafted jewelry, spices,
and Bedouin handicrafts. The towns and villages surrounding Taif are inviting,
but Al Shafa and Hadda particularly deserve visiting. Dramatic views, the
variety of flora and fauna, and the cool crisp climate make these hill stations
an attractive treat. Forty kilometers east of Taif in Wadi Layyah, the bedouin
people conduct camel races hosted by the Saudi National Guard every July and