23 May 2024


Just arrived in Medina for a few days. Checked into the hotel, had a nap, showered and now stalking the streets.

The city has only recently opened to non-Muslim tourists and the literature I read, before I arrived, has lots of mentions of the importance of avoiding many Muslim sites. One article stated that the signs stating “Forbidden to non-Muslims” have now been replaced with signs directing one to the holy sites. But they are still forbidden. This is confusing. And sort of unwelcoming.

A group of us are going to hop onto a hop-on/hop-off tomorrow after breakfast to get a better view of the city. We’ve been told that there are certain stops we should dismount at. Then we’ll hop off.

Medina is a blast. One of the strangest places I’ve ever been to. Until I visit North Korea, that is. Myself and several of our trip mates walked the 5km or so to join a hop on hop off bus for a guided tour of Medina or Al Madinah as they call it here. The weather was stunning, About 20° C, blue clear sky and a slight breeze. It was not humid. 

Like most of the islamic world, Medina, indeed all of Saudi, is really medieval. I imagine it feels now like Rome felt a thousand years ago when religious delusion was dominant. Indeed, the only mythology. It was interesting seeing people from all over the islamic world on pilgrimage

Medina is a city in western Saudi Arabia. In the city center, the vast Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque) is a major Islamic pilgrimage site. Its striking Green Dome rises above the tombs of the Prophet Muhammad and early Islamic leaders Abu Bakr and Umar. The Masjid al-Qiblatain (Qiblatain Mosque) is known as the site where the Prophet Muhammad, according to legend, received the command to change the direction of prayer to Mecca. 

Some Wikiblurb for contrxt:

Medina is the second-holiest city in Islam, and the capital of the Medina Province of Saudi Arabia. As of 2020, the estimated population of the city is 1,488,782, making it the fourth-most populous city in the country. Located at the core of the Medina Province in the western reaches of the country, the city is distributed over 589 km2, of which 293 km2 constitutes the city’s urban area, while the rest is occupied by the Hejaz Mountains, empty valleys, agricultural spaces and older dormant volcanoes.

Medina is generally considered to be the “cradle of Islamic culture and civilization”. The city is considered to be the second-holiest of three key cities in Islamic tradition, with Mecca and Jerusalem serving as the holiest and third-holiest cities respectively. Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (lit. ’The Prophet’s Mosque’) is of exceptional importance in Islam and serves as burial site of the last Islamic prophet, Muhammad, by whom the mosque was built in 622 CE. Observant Muslims usually visit his tomb, or rawdhah, at least once in their lifetime during a pilgrimage known as Ziyarat, although this is not obligatory. The original name of the city before the advent of Islam was Yathrib (Hebrew: יתריב; Arabic: يَثْرِب), and it is referred to by this name in Chapter 33 (Al-Aḥzāb, lit. ’The Confederates’) of the Quran. It was renamed to Madīnat an-Nabī (lit. ’City of the Prophet’ or ‘The Prophet’s City’) after Muhammad’s death and later to al-Madinah al-Munawwarah (lit. ’The Enlightened City’) before being simplified and shortened to its modern name, Madinah (lit. ’The City’), from which the English-language spelling of “Medina” is derived. Saudi road signage uses Madinah and al-Madinah al-Munawwarah interchangeably.

The city existed for over 1,500 years before Muhammad’s migration from Mecca, known as the Hijrah. Medina was the capital of a rapidly-increasing Muslim caliphate under Muhammad’s leadership, serving as its base of operations and as the cradle of Islam, where Muhammad’s Ummah (lit. '[Muslim] Community’)—composed of Medinan citizens (Ansar) as well as those who immigrated with Muhammad (Muhajirun), who were collectively known as the Sahabah—gained huge influence. Medina is home to three prominent mosques, namely al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Masjid Qubaʽa, and Masjid al-Qiblatayn, with the Masjid Quba’a being the oldest in Islam. A larger portion of the Qur’an was revealed in Medina in contrast to the earlier Meccan surahs.



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