Mecca (pronounced /ˈmɛkə/), sometimes spelled Makkah (English: /ˈmækə/; Arabic: مكة Makka and in full: Arabic: مكّة المكرمة transliterated Makkah al-Mukarrama [mækːæt ælmukarːamæ]) is the holiest meeting site of the Islamic religion. The city is modern, cosmopolitan and while being closed to non-Muslims is nonetheless ethnically diverse.
Islamic tradition attributes the beginning of Mecca to Ishmael's descendants. In the 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad proclaimed Islam in the city which was by then an important trading center. After 966, Mecca was led by local sharifs, until 1924, when it came under the rule of the Saudis. In its modern period Mecca has seen a great expansion in size and infrastructure.
The modern day city is the capital of Saudi Arabia's Mecca Province, in the historic Hejaz region. With a population of 1.7 million (2008), the city is located 73 km (45 mi) inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of 277 m (910 ft) above sea level.