Mecca is only accessible by Muslims, who often describe the moment they first lay eyes on the city's sacred Kaaba as an overwhelmingly emotional experience. For those living outside the Kingdom, a visit to Mecca – generally spelt 'Makkah' by Muslims and in Saudi Arabia – is a lifelong dream. Coming here to perform the hajj pilgrimage is a religious obligation for all Muslims who are financially and physically able to do so.
The birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, Mecca is awash with monuments of religious symbolism. Born of the desert, this is a modern city with the heart of an ancient Arabian village. Despite the immense construction projects around the city's sacred Kaaba – the most controversial being the clock tower – sun-bleached homes still nestle in the rocky hillsides and everywhere you look men dressed in two simple cotton sheets wander its streets.