Medina (Arab. Medinet en-Nebi, "city of the prophet"), a city of Arabia, in the province of Hedjaz, situated on the vast plateau of high land which forms central Arabia, about 250 m. N. of Mecca, in lat. 24° 50' N., Ion. 39° 50' E.; pop. about 17,000. It is the second in sanctity of the three holy cities of the Mohammedans. The sacred area is embraced within an imaginary line forming an irregular circle, of which the town is the centre, and of which the diameter is about 12 m. Medina consists of three parts, a toAvn, a fort, and suburbs. The town proper is walled and has four gates. The streets are narrow and dark, and imperfectly paved, and the town has a general appearance of decay. The houses are of brick, basalt, and palm wood; the best of them enclose spacious courtyards and small gardens with wells. The castle joins on to the N. W. angle of the city. The suburbs are S. and W. of the town, and between it and them is the plain of Al-Munakhah. They contain five mosques and the governor's house. The mosque of the prophet is at the eastern extremity of the city.
A saying of Mohammed is cited to the effect that one prayer in it is more efficacious than 1,000 in other places, excepting Mecca. The present building, occupying the site of a smaller one existing in the time of Mohammed, is a parallelogram about 420 ft. long by 340 broad. It has a spacious central area open to the sky, surrounded by a peristyle with numerous rows of pillars, surmounted by small domes, and having five gates and five minarets. In the centre of the court is a piece of ground about 80 ft. square enclosed by a wooden railing, and called the garden of Fati-ma, the prophet's daughter. Near this enclosure is the well of the prophet. In the covered part of the mosque are the tombs of Mohammed and of the caliphs Abubekr and Omar. They are concealed by a curtain of silk, and have never been seen by a Christian, and the Mohammedan accounts of them are contradictory. At present even Mohammedans are not allowed to see them; the persons in charge declare that whoever should look upon them would be blinded by supernatural light.
This mosque has been many times destroyed and rebuilt, the last time in 1710. The town has little commerce, and what trade exists is in grain, cloth, and provisions, and is carried on through the harbor of Yembo, on the Red sea, about 110 in. from Medina, The climate, though hot in summer, is severely cold in winter, owing to the elevation above the sea. The people are proud and indolent, and live in great part upon the revenues of the mosque, which has estates in almost all parts of the Mohammedan world. Thirty public schools still remain in this once famous seat of learning. - Medina was anciently called Jathrippa, and by the Arabs before Mohammed's time Yathreb. It is the place to which the prophet fled from persecution at Mecca, and where he died. For about 40 years after his death it was the seat of the caliphate. - See Burton's "Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca" (1856).