One of the oldest cities in the region and home to the most holy of all Muslim sites (Christian and Jewish too for some), Makkah receives over 3.5 million people alone during the Hajj season, and well over 15 million people throughout the year. This clearly keeps up with English definition for “Mecca” meaning: A place that attracts many visitors. The city is in the middle of a desert so summer temperatures can often soar into the fifties. Winter temperatures drop to 15 degree Celsius.
The city has, over the centuries, evolved to cater largely to pilgrims, with hotels dotting the entire city. The Saudi government has spent millions of dollars in the expansion of the holy mosque with the latest renovation and expansion ending in 2006 resulting in having over 9 floors for the Sayi, and three floors for the taw'waf. The holy mosque, known as the Masjid-al-Haram can now accommodate nearly 3 million people at a time.
The pilgrims are the main business here. During the peak of periods of Hajj and Ramadan, shops (not the malls) stay open almost 24/7. Everything gets interrupted for the prayers and reopens right afterwards.
The architecture in the city is profound. With some buildings dating back to the times when the Turks ruled the Hijaz to contemporary 5 star hotels with steps ending within the Haram’s boundaries.
Mecca is primarily about Masjid-al-Haram and the Ka'aba only. The focus of almost every traveller is towards praying. Apart from some of the major Ziyarats, much of the historical places have been bulldozed by the Wahabi Saudi authorities.
Being a city surrounded by rocky mountains smack in the middle of a desert, the city really burns in the summer months and it is next to impossible to get out during the day at the height of the summer with temperatures reaching 111 degrees Fahrenheit.