Mecca, in modern Saudi Arabia, is the Prophet Muhammad’s birthplace and the place where he received the revelation of the Quran. Pilgrims have travelled to Mecca as part of an annual pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, since 700 CE. In 1900, Hajj pilgrims travelled to the shrine city of Mecca by boat, ferry, horse carriage and camel caravans. After crossing the desert ravines, they would enter the city and pass the residential quarters, which housed the population of about 40,000 people. From there, they walked to the central Masjid al-Haram (the sacred mosque), which is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba. During the Hajj, tent cities were temporarily constructed to accommodate the pilgrims. In 1900, Mecca was an Ottoman territory and was still ruled by vassal descendants of Muhammad, the Sharifs, after which their summer garden and palace is named.
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