(also spelled Makkah
), located in Saudi Arabia
, is the holiest city in Islam
. The city is considered the official birthplace of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed
. All able-bodied Muslims
who can afford to go are required to make a pilgrimage--called the Hajj
--to Mecca at least once in their life. During a Hajj, vast camps of pilgrims spring up, and huge crowds of people from all over the world complete a series of tasks required of all pilgrims. After completion of these rites, the participant can claim the honorary title "Haji" before their name, signifying they have made the pilgrimage.
The term Mecca has become synonymous with any large gathering for a specific purpose, common cause, or interest, such as "Oshkosh has become the Mecca of aviation enthusiasts." While some conservative Christians refrain from such terminology so as to not legitimize the ancient Islamic tradition, others take as dim a view of all forms of politically correct speech and thus make no efforts to rewrite the language to make a political or religious point.