Ramadan - Medina, ‘the enlightened city’
Written by Randa Saab Smith
There is no better destination to visit during the month of Ramadan than Medina, the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca.
A place for contemplation and worship, Medina attracts travellers with its culture and history, and is Qatar Airways’ fourth destination in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Medina’s importance in history is attributed to its location on the Hejaz caravan routes that linked the southwestern parts of the Arabian Peninsula with Egypt and Syria. It was named Al Medina Al Monawarah, or the ‘Enlightened City’, following Islam. It is the city that embraced the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) during his struggle with his opponents, and where the Prophet (PBUH) built the first mosque and established the first Islamic community.
When visiting Medina you can envisage the images of the Battle of Badr – a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Prophet Mohamed’s (PBUH) struggle with his opponents. Looking towards Mount Uhud, you can almost see the glistening swords reflecting the sun, and hear the sound of the Uhud battle where Hamza and his companions were killed.
The city is home to the first mosque in Islam, established in AD 622, known as Masjid Quba, and later restored by Qaitbay, the Egyptian ruler, in AD 1487.
Masjid Al Qiblatain is another mosque of historical importance to Muslims. It is where the Prophet (PBUH) changed the direction of prayer (Qibla) from Jerusalem to Mecca.
At present, the city has a vibrant financial and commercial centre with modern shopping malls, especially in the area surrounding the Holy Prophet’s Mosque plaza. The city is rich with luxurious hotels, which provide comfort to Medina visitors.
Going on a short drive from the city centre to Al Ula sector, you can visit Mada’in Saleh, one of the Middle East’s great archaeological marvels. The pre-Islamic site dates from the Nabataean civilisation (1st century) and formed the southernmost point of their kingdom, whose capital was Petra. Accounts from the Qur’an also tell of a much earlier settlement by the tribe of Thamud.
Visiting the area, which was proclaimed by UNESCO in 2008 as Saudi Arabia’s first World Heritage Site, you’ll need to spend at least a full day here, and be delighted by the lack of tourists that can impede sites like Petra. The sandstone rock carvings are as intricate as they are grand, and below the Aramaic inscriptions are decorated with delicate patterns, animals, and birds such as eagles, snakes, and griffins. Must-sees are Qasr Al Bint (castle of the girl), which contains 29 individual tombs and the largest façade, over 15m high, and the ornate columns of the lone Qasr Al Fareed (unique castle).
Discover more at www.madainsaleh.net.