Medina, Saudi Arabia
Medina (The City), Tayba (The Goodness), or Al-Madinah Al-Monawarah (The City of Light) is the first Islamic capital and the second holiest city in Islam, located 447 km north of Mecca, in the region of Hejaz. With a history dating back more than 2600 years, this sacred city was the place to which Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and his followers sought refuge in 622 AD when they were forced into exile from their home Mecca, an event known as Hijra (the emigration) which marked the beginning of the Islamic lunar "Hijri" calendar.
It is also the place of the prophet's mosque known as Al-Masjid An-Nabawi, the main and most important site in Medina, which was built by the prophet himself and the small Muslim community of Al-Muhajereen and Al-Ansar right after the Hijra, and later became the burial place of the prophet (pbuh) and his senior companions Abu Baker and Omar may Allah be pleased of them. Like Mecca, Medina is forbidden to non-Muslims.
Today, Medina is a thriving modern city catering to more than 2 million pilgrims every year who come to visit the Prophet's tomb and pray in his mosque. Medina also houses many significant holy sites and shrines like Al-Baqi'e cemetery, where most of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) are buried, Quba Mosque, the first mosque built in Islam, Masjid Al-Qiblatayn, Uhud battleground and mountain, site of the second holy war for Islam, and the city of Badr south west of Medina, the site of the first battle in Islam.
Medina which is known as the city of peace and tranquility is also rich with cultural heritage, museums, vast date palm groves and traditional old souqs (markets) that stand side-by-side with the most modern of shopping malls and arcades.
The 2nd mosque built in the history of Islam and is now one of the largest mosques in the World. It is the 2nd holiest site in Islam, after Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca, and a major pilgrimage site. Many pilgrims who perform the Hajj go on to Medina to visit this mosque due to its connections to the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). As it was built by the prophet himself adjacent to his house, served as a community center, a court, and a religious school, and later became the final resting place of the prophet and his companions, the first two Caliphs Abu Baker and Omar, may Allah be pleased of them.
Subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated it. In 1909, it became the first place in the Arabian Peninsula to be provided with electrical lights. One of the most notable features of the site is the Green Dome in the south-east corner of the mosque, originally his wife Aisha's house, may Allah be pleased of her, where the tomb of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is located. In 1279, a wooden cupola was built over the tomb which was later rebuilt and renovated multiple times in late 15th century and once in 1817. The current dome was added in 1818 by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmoud II, and it was first painted green in 1837, hence becoming known as the "Green Dome". The mosque is located in what was traditionally the center of Medina, with many hotels and old markets nearby.
Quba Mosque is the first ever mosque built in Islam, located in the outlying environs of Medina. According to legend, its first stones were positioned by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as soon as he arrived on his emigration and the mosque was completed by his companions. The prophet spent 14 days in this mosque during Hijra while waiting for his cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased of him, to arrive in Medina after the latter stayed behind in Mecca to carry out a couple of tasks entrusted to him by the prophet. Mohammad (pbuh) used to go there, riding or on foot, every Saturday and offer a two rak'ah prayer. He advised others to do the same, saying, "Whoever makes ablutions at home and then goes and prays in the Mosque of Quba, he will have a reward like that of an "Umra".
Masjid Al-Qiblatayn or the Mosque of the Two Qiblas is among the three earliest mosques in Islam's history, along with Quba Mosque and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi. It is historically important for Muslims as the place where, after Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) received the command to change the direction of prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to Mecca, the entire congregation led by a companion changed direction in prayer. Thus it uniquely contained two prayer niches (mihrabs). Recently, the mosque was renovated; the old prayer niche facing Jerusalem was removed, and the one facing Mecca was left.
Uhud Mountain is a 1077 m high mountain 4 km north of Al-Masjid An-Nabawi and was the site of the second battle between Muslims and Meccan forces, The Battle of Uhud, which was fought on March 625 AD. It is also the site of the cemetery where 70 of prophet's companions whom were martyred in this battle are buried, led by Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib, the uncle of the prophet, may Allah please them all. The prophet (pbuh) once declared that "The Mountain of Uhud loves us (we Muslims) and we love it".