AT THE CENTER
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Mecca is the holiest city in Islam. Located in modern day Saudi Arabia, it is the destination for the religiously mandatory hajj pilgrimage. The city’s beginnings are uncertain, but Muslim tradition holds that it was the prophet Ibrahim (the biblical Abraham) and his son Ishmael who first built the Kaaba, the religious monument at the heart of the city. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born in the city in 570 CE, when it was the site of a pilgrimage for pagan Arab tribes. Mecca was the first city in which Muhammad preached, but persecution eventually drove him to flee to Medina. Muhammad and his followers gained control of Mecca in 630 CE, and it has been the spiritual center of the Muslim world ever since. Muslim rulers contributed to its upkeep throughout history, and it became part of Saudi Arabia in 1924. Mecca has grown significantly under the Saudis, and millions of Muslims from across the world make the hajj to Mecca each year.