Medina. A Holy City


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Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Medina
February 28th 2022
Published: March 9th 2022
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Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East, situated between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Ninety five percent of this country is considered a desert or semi-desert. We began to feel the enormity of the country as we left Jeddah via the Haramain high speed train heading to the Holy City of Medina.

Once we were out of the Jeddah city limits there were miles and miles of barren land. Saudi Arabia has no rivers of lakes. All water is from under the ground or by desalination. Shades of tan, brown, gray and rust dotted the landscape. When one first enters the desert, it looks rather bland and blends into all one color. The longer time you spend in this muted landscape it slowly becomes alive. In the landscape you begin to notice a wide range of colors and take notice of small bushes, rocks and intermittent buildings along the way.

As the train gains a speed of 300 km, we begin to think about Mecca and Medina the two Holy Cities of Saudi Arabia. We won’t visit Mecca on this trip. It isn’t against the law to go to Mecca but there are restrictions
View of MedinaView of MedinaView of Medina

The View Restaurant
on what a non-Muslim can see. We want to get the most out of our time here, so we head north to Medina the second Holiest City of Saudi Arabia. Our intent is to experience as much of the culture and religion as we can.

We mentioned that when we arrived in Saudi it was necessary to download the Tawakkalna app. If you visit you will need your phone available with this app to show your immunity status before entering hotels, restaurants and museums.

Medina is a city of 1.5 million residents but it didn’t seem that large to us. Our first stop was the Dar Al Medina Museum which is a rustic museum focused on the Muslim religion. They had created multiple models depicting different moments in history and religious stories which the guide shared. As we moved around the museum, the guide described each model. This is where we began to gain an understand of the Prophet Mohammad, their sacred scripture of the Quran and the devotion of the Muslim people. Later in reading we learned the five pillars of Islam include the belief in God and his Prophet along with the obligations of prayer, charity, pilgrimage and fasting. Certainly, you can imagine this is a simplification but gives you a quick overview.

Wild Frontiers has done a great job providing us unique dining experiences. Today we stopped at AL Ossia bird sanctuary. As we entered the sanctuary, they had an outdoor seating area and darling baby goats were roaming free, so we took a few photos of their adorable faces. At the sanctuary, they have created a lovely aviary where a few birds are in cages but most fly free. We were given small packets of seed to put in the palm of our hands to feed the birds. We all got photos of ourselves feeding the birds. This shows they are beginning to get a handle on tourism. Our lunch was prepared and served at a banquet table on the upper floor of the bird sanctuary where we could continue to look down on the birds. We were surrounded by nature. They brought platters of rice, chicken, stewed vegetables, and rice with goat. Ut oh… yep, we think we just ate those cute baby goats we saw on our way in. Yikes! Oh well…. When in Saudi.

We stopped by the Quba Mosque which was the first mosque in Medina. If you’ve been in a mosque you know a lot of the beauty is on the outside. Inside they have tall ceilings and carpets on the floor but they are wide open spaces for prayer and rather plain. There is beauty in the simplicity. Although we saw a couple in Morocco that were stunning and more ornate on the inside. The women in the group were instructed to enter on the right side of the building and the men went in the left. Our guides Saad and Daniele instructed everyone to meet in the courtyard once we gained entrance. On the women's side the gate to the courtyard was locked. We wandered taking photos of the architecture and then decided to enter the prayer room. We showed our app at the door and left our shoes and cameras outside. The large room was plain and only about fifty women were praying. We could hear the men on the other side of the wall. As we slowly and respectfully wandered, not interrupting prayers a women asked me where I was from. I told her the United States and she smiled and welcomed me.
Outside Prophet MosqueOutside Prophet MosqueOutside Prophet Mosque

Many find space to pray
This is the repeated response every where we have been. Everyone is pleased we have come to visit. Americans are a bit of a novelty.

If you’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia or other Saudi Arabian films you know they had a train going through part of the country. The train went from Damascus, Syria to Medina and was built by the Ottomans. Its main purpose was to connect Istanbul, Turkey and the seat of the Islamic Caliphate and Hejaz in what was then Arabia. By connecting Istanbul and Mecca, it would improve the integration of distant Arabian provinces. The intent was for it to go much further but construction was interrupted by WW I. We stopped Hijaz Railway Terminus to get a glimpse of the train station from the outside and better understand the era of the past. In present day you will not see the rail tracks as they have been removed and repurposed over time. We enjoyed seeing the old station as it gave a better understanding of the past goals.

Mount Uhud is not really a mountain but more of a hill. It is also known as Archer’s Hill. We were able to climb to the top and take photo of the nearby mosque and graveyard.

The star of Medina is the Prophet Mosque. This architectural beauty of this building is truly astounding. There is stone and marble as far as you can see. We were on the grounds at prayer time and were able to observe thousands of faithful praying. We estimate there were more than 20,000 praying while we were there. Listening to the call to prayer, seeing the people pray and listening to the sounds has a calming effect. Muslim people pray five times each day. We have a great respect for the devotion the Muslim community. Kindness and respect are core values of the Muslim religion. As we said they practice the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed.

While we were at the mosque we saw some non-Muslim people enter the mosque and believe they may have taken some photos. They were quietly guided out of the building and out the front gate. It is best to know the rules and follow them while in Saudi Arabia.

Our stop at the Museum of the Life and Prophet and Islamic Civilization gave us a deeper understanding of life in Saudi
Quba MosqueQuba MosqueQuba Mosque

Medina, Saudi Arabia
Arabia, the people and the teachings. This museum is a work in progress but one of the most high tech museums we’ve ever encountered. All of the information is in Arabic and some has been converted to English. They are working toward having all of the information in English. It is thoughtful and high tech.

Where we stayed:

Le Meridien Marriott in Medina

This is our previous blog from Saudi Arabia. Entering The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or hit previous blog above.


Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 27


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Haramain High Speed TrainHaramain High Speed Train
Haramain High Speed Train

Leaving Jeddah for Medina
Many different anglesMany different angles
Many different angles

Beautiful Architecture


11th March 2022
Prophet Mosque is very large

Interesting to read about SA
Very interesting to read about what it's like to travel i Saudi Arabia. I have long been wondering what that's like. Fun fact: The largest sand desert in the world is in Saudi Arabia. Still there is a Swedish company that makes good business by selling sand to Saudi Arabia. /Ake
11th March 2022
Prophet Mosque is very large

Interesting to read about SA
I can't imagine SA needed to purchase sand. I would need to know more about that. LOL. It is a great place to travel. I hope you add it to your list.
11th March 2022

Gift request
Glad you made it. We are about to have three days of 50 degree temps. Breaking out the shorts. Kitchen project done and hope to be prepping the boat soon. Hey, if you see a good deal on some Crude oil please get a few drums and we will reimburse you when you get back. :)
11th March 2022

Gift request
We checked on getting you a few barrels of oil but transportation was an issue. Glad the house is coming along and your temps are warming up.
12th March 2022

Medina
Wow. I knew "infidels" weren't allowed to go to Mecca, but I didn't think they could go to Medina either. Sounds fascinating. I think we saw part of that train line out at Wadi Rum in Jordan, and heard tales of Lawrence of Arabia and his band of merry men trying to blow it up! I assume it's the same train line.
12th March 2022

Medina
The Crown Prince is encouraging tourism now so he is allowing visitors to go to Medina. The mosque is lovely. Worth a rip to this part of the world.
13th March 2022

Medina
Wow, how amazing to see Medina! I didn't know it was possible to visit parts of Mecca as a non-Muslim. Still, it makes sense to visit Medina instead if there are no restrictions there. The mosques look beautiful, I particularly love the marble and shades as I imagine these provide cooling effects in the Arabian heat. Great to see you were able to visit places from the Lawrence of Arabia film - films are indeed great sources of pre-trip planning and inspiration. The birds and baby goats look so cute! ☺
14th March 2022

Medina
We were told non-Muslims can go to Mecca but on anther day we were told they can't. We didn't take the change. No reason to ask for trouble and the mosque in Medina is lovely. The shades were beautiful and amazing. It allowed more people to pray. I felt bad about eating the baby goat. Oh well.... that's part of travel.
26th March 2022
MJ feeding the birds

Zebra Finches
Those look like Zebra Finches. I used to keep them in an aviary quite some time ago. The males have their own and distintive cute singing voices
27th March 2022
MJ feeding the birds

Zebra Finches
That may be what they were. Why did you give up on them? They are nice looking birds.
26th March 2022

Saudi
I'm enjoying following your Saudi adventure. I saw another photo of the birds and confirming they're Zebra Finches 😊
5th April 2022
MJ feeding the birds

Zebra Finches
It's quite a sad story, but my parents got divorced and we had to sell our home and downsize. In the covenants of the new house it stated no keeping birds in aviaries. I keep saying one day when I get a big enough garden I'd build an aviary and keep some birds ☺️
5th April 2022
MJ feeding the birds

Zebra Finches
Sorry. Hopefully, one day you will get an aviary.

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