In the year 622, Prophet Muhammad escaped an attempt of assassination by fleeing to Yathrib (present-day Medina). This event was soon called hijra and the second caliph, Umar, marked it as the first year of the Islamic Calendar (Hijri Calendar).
Medina is one of the most important cities in Islamic history. It’s the place of Quba, the oldest mosque in the world, it’s also the place of al Masjid an-Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque), the second most important mosque after Masjid al-Ḥarām. Medina was also The Prophet’s second home and his final resting place. He was buried inside Nabawi Mosque’s complex.
Another popular historical site in Medina is Mount Uhud where the force led by Abu Sufyan from Mecca attacked the small muslim community of Medina led by Prophet Muhammad in 625. The battle of Uhud, which is one of the most told stories in Islamic history is famous for its part when the muslim archers abandoned their posts in favor of collecting Meccan spoils, allowed a vicious counterattack that killed many muslims and made the prophet badly injured.
In addition to historical sites, Medina has other interesting spots: Date plantation and market, one of them is located not far from the Quba Mosque. When I was here, I found an interesting fact that almost all vendors accepted Indonesian Rupiah beside Dinar. Well, it wasn’t so surprising since the visitors here almost all of them were Indonesian pilgrims, and we were known for our crazy spending habit.
Unlike Mecca, Medina has a relatively loose rule for non-muslims, they are still forbidden to enter the designated sacred core of the city, but allowed outside the area. Medina is like a toned-down version of Mecca. Here, the atmosphere is a less tense, and Nabawi Mosque –famous for its retractable umbrellas on the pedestrian lanes, providing shades for the pilgrims– is less crowded than Masjid al-Ḥarām, but still packed like crazy during daily prayers five times a day.
With its relatively relaxed atmosphere and less mega structure hotels and shopping malls, Medina is quite a lovely town in the middle of the desert. I hope the ambitious development plan of Mecca would never reach this holy city, destroying thousands of years history into the ground.