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 received the command to change the direction of prayer to Mecca.

Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque)

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The Prophet’s Mosque or Al-Masjid An-Nabawwi is the second holiest shrine in Islam, and most definitely the greatest attraction in the city of Madinah. As everything else in Saudi Arabia, it is currently in a state of considerable expansion, and the exterior of the shrine grounds are a mess of excavations and construction works. These do not penetrate into the mosque’s courtyard, but they nevertheless cause the view of the entire structure from the north to be a bit unsightly. The courtyard is dominated by huge canopies that were erected in order to allow for tens of thousands more pilgrims to pray just outside the mosque. It is said that, with the expansion that was completed in the 1970s and 1980s, up to a half-million pilgrims can now be accommodated inside the grounds of the Prophet’s Mosque. Although the complex is now dominated by the canopies and the minarets that rise above them, the famous green dome, which was constructed by the Ottomans and sits above the Rawdah, the tomb of the Prophet, is still largely visible.

Prophet’s Mosque and Rawdah

The interior of the Prophet’s Mosque is remarkable, first and foremost, for the sheer crush of humanity. The crowds are noticeable, but not claustrophobia-inducing, in the main hallways of the men’s section of the prayer hall. The crowd becomes exponentially denser as you proceed into the Riyad al-Jannah, the part of the mosque between Ar-Rawdah and the Minbar or pulpit. Tradition has it that any prayer uttered in this area cannot be refused. The crush continues past Ar-Rawdah, which is the central part of the mosque in which Muhammad is buried. Despite Wahhabi issues with photography and modernity in general, the number of people means that it is nearly impossible for the guards to prohibit pilgrims from snapping pictures. The interior of the mosque is richly appointed along its capitals and some of the columns, but nothing to the point of counter-reformation church in Spain. This is largely thanks to Wahhabi doctrine, whose followers would have destroyed the Rawdah and Muhammad’s tomb, if given the chance. Much of the Ottoman-era ornamentation, however, did not escape this fate, and was removed when Madinah was passed to Al-Saud rule in 1925.

Jannath Al- Bakee

jannat-ul-baqiIn Saudi taking photograph of certain places is prohibited so this is the picture of Al- Baqi’(some called it Al- Bakee) that I took from one of the book cause normally we can only take the picture from afar. Here is the place where most of the prophet families and companions (sahabah) were buried. It’s a walking distance from the Nabawi Mosque. Muslim who passes away in Medina during Hajj or Umrah will also get the honor to bury here. Please take some of your time to visit Al- Baqi’ cemetery when you are in Madina and make Du’a for those who have gone before us…May God Bless Their Soul!

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Quba Mosque

masjid-quba-frontThe Quba mosque is one of the three historically important mosques left in Madinah. It is the site of the oldest mosque in Islam, having been founded by Muhammad upon his flight from Mecca to Madinah. Nevertheless, the current structure is not of particular historical interest, as it was constructed after the original mosque was torn down (it could not, evidently be incorporated into the new structure). The new mosque is a spacious one with a sort of cramped forward area and spacious back area, often used for pilgrim who are reading the Quran or napping.

Masjid Al-Qiblatayn

al-qiblataian-masjid-al-qiblatainMasjid Al-Qiblatayn is famous because of its uniqueness amongst mosques. All mosques contain what is known as a qibla, an architectural feature that points the faithful in the direction of Mecca, the direction of prayer. In the early era of Islam, however, the qibla pointed to Jerusalem, as this was the direction in which Muhammad instructed his followers to devote their prayers. After a revelation from Allah (and a dispute with the local Jewish community), followers were instructed to direct their prayers south to Mecca and the Kaaba, the black stone that is supposed to have served as the altar for Abraham when God told him to sacrifice Isaiah. Mosques had to change their qiblas, and the only remaining structure in which two of these features are still present is this shrine in Madinah. Architecturally, this mosque is not particularly impressive or notable, and it follows a very austere pattern. Nevertheless, as a 1400 year old mosque, it is certainly one of the few remaining structures of historical interest left in the city.

Shopping in Madinah

There is a wide variety of shopping in Madinah. Unlike many other cities in Saudi Arabia, the centre of this particular one is not dominated by a large shopping mall or high-end stores catering to wealthy Saudis and expats. Certainly, there are plenty of places on the outskirts of the city, but the shops that are found around the Prophet’s Mosque are decently lower scale. They cater to pilgrims who, by and large, are from poor countries. They specialize in various religious paraphernalia (Korans, religious books, religious tapes and CDs, prayer rugs, miswak, prayer beads), as well as Chinese-made toys and clothing. Of course, there are lots of places selling food. Unless you are looking for religious souvenirs, the shopping in Madinah is unlikely to attract you. Nevertheless, it is interesting from an academic point of view, whether you’re interested in sociology or economics. The sharp rise in Turkish visitors has caused a surge in interest in Turkish here, and it is not difficult to find shopkeepers calling out in basic Turkish or offering to accept lira instead of Saudi riyals. The shopkeepers are a bell-weather of pilgrim trends, and can provide an interesting insight into changes over the years.