Mecca or Makkah is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located 73 km inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of 277 m above sea level. Its resident population in 2008 was 1.7 million, although visitors more than double this number every year during Dhu al-Hijjah.
As the birthplace of Muhammad and a site of the composition of the Quran, Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and a pilgrimage to it known as the Hajj is obligatory upon all able Muslims. The Hijaz was long ruled by Muhammad's descendants, the sharifs, either as independent rulers or as vassals to larger empires. It was absorbed into Saudi Arabia in 1925. In its modern period, Mecca has seen tremendous expansion in size and infrastructure. Because of this Mecca has lost many thousand years old buildings and archaeological sites. Today, more than 13 million Muslims visit Mecca annually, including several million during the few days of the Hajj. As a result, Mecca has become one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the Muslim World, although non-Muslims remain formally prohibited from entering the city.