Al Medina literally translates to “The City” and is the place where the last Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) spent the final 10 years of his life after he migrated from Mecca following the attack of the rebels. It’s an incredibly old city that dates back more than 1,000 years and holds a position of great significance in terms of Islamic history. The city’s legacy is visible in the many old buildings dotted around the streets and the feeling of being in the Prophet’s city is one that is beyond comparison. I found it fascinating to just sit back in one of the coffee shops and ponder over what life would have been like all those hundreds of years ago. Apart from those who visit Medina for pilgrimage reasons, the city can also be very useful for archaeologists and anyone who has an interest in Middle Eastern history thanks to its rich heritage.
This is without doubt the Prophet’s Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi), which was only the second mosque in Islamic history and is one of the largest mosques in the world today. The green dome of the mosque is a notable feature, situated in the southeast corner, directly over the Prophet’s grave. Originally built by the Prophet himself, it is Islam’s second holiest site, after The Holy Mosque in Mecca. The site of the mosque is close to where the Prophet settled after leaving Mecca in 622CE. He shared in the heavy work of construction of the mosque and the original structure was an open-air building. In addition to its religious function, it also served as a community centre, a court and a religious school. It has undergone tremendous changes over the years and has become an impressive and instantly recognisable piece of architecture. The original mosque was 30 metres by 35 metres and was built of palm trunks and mud, but over the years it has been rebuilt and embellished several times and can now accommodate more than 500,000 worshippers.
Apart from the Prophet’s Mosque, there are some amazing historical sites in Medina. The Quba Mosque is the oldest mosque in the world, built by Muhammad and his companions upon their arrival in Medina. There is also the Qiblatain mosque – a unique mosque with two directions of prayer – where the Prophet was commanded by God to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. Wadi Jinn can be found a little over 40km outside of Medina and no visit to the city is complete without a quick stop in this mysterious valley. It is reported that when poured downhill, water will actually flow uphill and that cars move on their own, largely owing to the magnetic properties in the surrounding mountains. Other locals have also reported hearing the unfriendly voices of jinns asking them to leave when staying out in the wadi at night. You also can’t leave Medina without trying broasted chicken, a popular fast-food snack.
There really isn’t anything that I can point out; Medina truly is an amazing place. Of course, the crowds get denser during holy periods like Ramadan or the Hajj, so book your stay accordingly.
The shops in the area surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque usually sell simple souvenirs such as religious paraphernalia (books, CDs, prayer rugs and prayer beads), but there are also shops selling beautiful jewellery, bags and shoes, which are cheap and durable. Just like Oman, Medina is famous for its dates, so make sure you try some of the nutritious fruit while there. The most popular variety is the Ajwa date.
People from all over the world come to visit Medina, so there are various types of hotels to suit all budgets. The Anwar Al Madinah Mövenpick Hotel, Madinah Hilton and the Ramada Madinah al Hamra are good choices. However, there are lots of other mid-level and budget options to choose from.
1. Visit the Prophet’s Mosque and enjoy walking in the courtyard
2. Take a trip to Wadi Jinn
3. Take a tour of the city with a guide
4. Eat broasted chicken at Al Baik
5. Go in search of the best Ajwa dates