Mecca

Photo by Tab59

{The Masjid al-Haram Mosque against a contemporary skyline in Mecca, Saudi Arabia}

Mecca is the holiest Islamic site in the world and every Muslim is required to make a pilgrimage there once in their life (if they are able to).

Only Muslims are allowed into the Mosque – in fact, you can’t even get into the city of Mecca unless you’re Muslim. However, a British explorer named Sir Richard Francis Burton managed to skate around the rules by disguising himself as an Afghan in order to enter the sacred site back in 1853. If you’re interested, you can read all about his adventures here.

The big black stone in the center of the Mosque is known as the Holy Ka’aba. This is actually what Muslims around the world face when they pray. An interesting bit of trivia about the Ka’aba: it’s built around a piece of meteor rock that is thousands of years old and which was worshipped even before the Ka’aba that you see today was built. The black-colored meteorite is still there, attached to one side of the mammoth shrine and pilgrims clamor to touch it. Pretty cool, eh?