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Mecca is the heart of Islam. It is the birthplace of Muhammad, the direction towards which Muslims turn when they pray and the site of pilgrimage which annually draws some three million Muslims from all corners of the world. Yet Mecca's importance goes beyond religion. What happens in Mecca and how Muslims think about the political and cultural history of Mecca has had and continues to have a profound influence on world events to this day.
In this captivating book, Ziauddin Sardar unravels the significance of Mecca. Tracing its history, from its origins as a 'barren valley' in the desert to its evolution as a trading town and sudden emergence as the religious centre of a world empire, Sardar examines the religious struggles and rebellions in Mecca that have powerfully shaped Muslim culture.
Interweaving stories of his own pilgrimages to Mecca with those of others, Sardar offers a unique insight into not just the spiritual aspects of Mecca - the passion, ecstasy and longing it evokes - but also the conflict between heritage and modernity that has characterised its history. He unpeels the physical, social and cultural dimensions that have helped transform the city and also, though accounts of such Orientalist travellers as Richard Burton and Charles Doughty, the strange fascination that Mecca has long inspired in the Western imagination. And, ultimately, he explores what this tension could mean for Mecca's future.
An illuminative, lyrical and witty blend of history, reportage and memoir, this outstanding book reflects all that is profound, enlightening and curious about one of the most important religious sites in the world.
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The story of Mecca has seldom been told with such insight and passion . A beautifully rendered account of the Muslim version of events, as told by a rational, likable, intelligent and mildly sceptical follower of the prophet . A major achievement and a hugely enjoyable and important study of the world's great cities (William Dalrymple, Observer)
Authoritative . Sardar should be praised for his scholarly and well researched history ... Will prove to be an essential text for anyone interested in the birthplace of Islam (Independent)
A prolific writer on Islam, and knows how to tell a story. He enlivens, longueurs in the history with wit, robust judgement and a sprinkling of sexual escapades (The Times)
Sardar lays bare the Sacred City and chronicles the Muslim tradition of travel . Affecting at the start, with its report of an elderly pilgrim who has struggled to reach Mecca and breathes his last there; amusing about his own travels; and increasingly angry towards the end (Daily Telegraph)
Entertaining and richly informative . Few well-informed readers, whether Muslim or infidel, will quarrel with Sardar's conclusion (Literary Review)
Charts the bloody, complex history and changing politics of one of the world's biggest travel hubs (Wanderlust)
A project of love and disenchantment - which tells Mecca's story from pre-Islamic times until today (Economist)
Shows how much the Saudis have destroyed and suppressed in their Disneyfication of the most sacred city of Islam (William Dalrymple, Observer Books of the Year)
Powerful and instructive . few books celebrate life, with joy and sadness, quite like this one does (New Statesman)
A groundbreaking, accessible and passionate journey to the spiritual home of Islam, from its religious roots and through the layers of its fascinating history to the place and symbol it is today
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