Hedjaz , a dependency of the Turkish empire in Arabia, on the coast of the Red sea, bounded N. by the desert, E. by the desert, Shomer, and Nedjed, S. by Yemen, and W. by the Red sea, and its arm the gulf of Akabah. The coast is generally low and sandy, and lined with coral reefs and islets, which afford shelter for small vessels in all weather. Large vessels find good anchorage in roadsteads, but there are few safe harbors. The principal seaports are Jiddah and Yembo, the former the port of Mecca, the latter of Medina. A range of mountains which attain in some places an elevation of 8,000 ft., often covered with snow, traverses Hedjaz from X. to S. and extends into Yemen. West of this chain, which is generally visible from the coast, and sometimes approaches near to it, is a tract of sandy lowland (el-Tehama), once the bed of the sea; east of it is a highland (nejed), which recedes gradually into the desert, excepting near lat. 24°, where an offshoot from the range extends N. E. to Jebel Shomer. These mountains are of granitic formation, but porphyritic rocks, supporting sandstone and limestone, occur in many places.
Traces of volcanic fires are numerous throughout the Tehama, and porous lavas are found, particularly around Medina. The lowlands are scored by wadies or beds of torrents, which are rarely filled, as but little rain falls during the year. There are no rivers, but a few small streams find their way down from the mountains. where there arc more copious rains and consequently well watered valleys. In the Tehama the wild plants are few and offer little sustenance for animal life. In the uplands, various cereals, many fruits, and the vegetables peculiar to Arabia are raised. Wild goats abound in the mountains, and hya?nas and foxes are numerous along the coasts, where they subsist on fish which they find on the coral reefs. A few gazelles, hares, jerboas, and lizards are found on the plains. Falcons are the principal birds. Fish are very plentiful, and constitute a large part of the food of the inhabitants; great quantities are salted and sold in the markets of Mecca. Three species of dolphin are taken along the coast, and tortoise shell and mother of pearl are abundant. The climate of Hedjaz is generally unhealthy.
Fevers are prevalent on the coast, owing to the foulness of the water; and in the interior the humidity and rank vegetation of the irrigated valleys render them almost equally insalubrious. The heat is excessive, and is tempered only by the sea breeze. The N. part of Hedjaz has few towns or villages, and is inhabited chiefly by wandering Bedouins. The pilgrim route from the north to the holy cities is guarded by isolated castles. At the N. extremity of the gulf of Akabah is the fortified village of the same name. In the S. part Medina and Mecca are the chief inland places. Tayf, about 60 m. S. E. of Mecca, is on high ground, and is defended by several forts; it supplies Jiddah and Mecca with fruits, which grow abundantly in its vicinity. Gunfudah is a coast town S. of Jiddah, opposite a group of islands of the same name. Kali, another small coast town further S., in lat. 18° 35' N., is on the borders of Yemen. Besides these places there are only a few scattering villages, mostly in the highlands. - The country immediately around Mecca is under the jurisdiction of the sherif of Mecca, an officer elected by the sherifs, or nobles who claim descent from the family of the prophet; but he is subordinate to the representative of the sultan, who resides at Jiddah. When the Wahabees cut off the communication between Constantinople and the sacred cities, the sherif of Mecca revolted, attacked the Turkish pasha in Jiddah, and removed him by poison.
The Wahabees soon checked his increasing power, and they in turn were driven east in 1818 by the troops of Mehemet Ali, who made himself master of Hedjaz and assumed the protectorate of the holy cities. At the close of the war between Turkey and Egypt in 1840, the sultan recovered his rights, and Hedjaz now constitutes a vilayet of the Turkish empire. The great caravans of pilgrims, which were frequently intercepted and despoiled when the country was in an unsettled state, are now comparatively protected, although still subject to numerous extortions.