Mixta, the chief of the three holy cities of the Mohammedans, capital of the province of Hedjaz, Arabia, 65 m. E. of Jiddah, its port on the Red sea, and 250 m. S. of Medina, in hit. 21° 30' N. and Ion. 40° 15' E.; pop. about 45.000. It lies in a narrow valley shut in by bare hills from 200 to 500 ft. high. Its length from N. to S. is about 2 1/2 m., its breadth is somewhat less than a mile, and it is defended by a forties on an elevation S. of the city. The houses are well built of brick and stone, and. unlike those of most oriental towns, have windows opening to the street; they generally contain apartments which are let as lodgings to the pilgrims who annually visit the holy city. The streets are broad and unpaved. The only public building worthy of note is the shrine or temple called Beit Allah, "House of Allah," or more commonly Caaba, " Square House." This great sanctuary, the most famous and holy in the Mohammedan world, stands in the centre of an oblong square, enclosed by a wall 250 paces long and 200 broad, none of the sides of which run in a straight line, though at first sight the whole appears to be of regular shape. Inside of the wall is a colonnade consisting of a quadruple row of pillars on the eastern side and of a triple row on the other sides.
These pillars are more than 20 ft. high, and generally about 18 in. in diameter. Some are of white marble, granite, or porphyry, but the greater number are of common stone from the neighboring hills. Their number is variously stated; Burton counted 554. They are united by pointed arches, every four of which support a small dome plastered and whitened on the outside; these domes are 152 in number. Parts of the walls and arches are gaudily painted in stripes of yellow, red, and blue. The floors of the colonnades are paved with large stones badly cemented together. The Caaba is 115 paces from the northern colonnade and 88 from the southern. It is an oblong massive structure, 18 paces long, 14 broad, and from 35 to 40 ft. high, and is built of fine gray granite in horizontal courses of masonry of irregular depth; the stones arc well fitted together with excellent mortar like Roman cement. It was entirely rebuilt as it now stands in 1627, a torrent in the preceding year having thrown down three of its sides. The roof of the Caaba being flat, it has at a distance the appearance of a perfect cube. At the S. E. corner of the Caaba is the famous "black stone," which is believed to have been brought from heaven by angels.
It forms a part of the angle of the building, 4 ft. 9 in. from the ground, and is an irregular oval about 7 in. in diameter, with an undulating surface composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes well joined together with a small quantity of cement, and perfectly smoothed. It is said to have been broken in pieces by order of a heretical sultan in 1022, but was cemented together and bound with a silver ring. The color is black and metallic, and the stone is worn smooth by the lips of worshippers. Burck-hardt thought it looked like a mass of lava containing several small extraneous particles of a whitish and of a yellowish substance; while Burton says it appeared to him like a common aerolite. The pilgrims who walk around the Caaba begin their procession at the black stone, which is touched and kissed with the highest veneration. A pavement of granite, polished like glass by the feet of the faithful, surrounds the Caaba. Outside of this pavement, which forms an irregular oval, is a line of iron posts supporting cross rods from which hang white or green glass globe lamps. The interior of the Caaba is plain, and there are no windows or any other opening except the entrance and a small door leading to a staircase to the roof.
The floor and walls are covered with marble of various colors, but mostly white; and the roof and upper part of the walls are covered with red damask embroidered with gold. The interior is lighted by many lamps, but there is no other furniture except a small press in one corner in which the key of the building is sometimes placed. Near the door, outside, is a small hollow, where Abraham and Ishmael are said to have mixed the cement for building the Caaba. On the N. W. side are the supposed graves of Ishmael and Hagar, enclosed by a semicircular wall covered with white marble. Opposite the E. corner is the zem-zem or sacred well, believed to be that of Hagar. Its water is unpleasant in taste, and has a cathartic effect; the Mohammedans ascribe to it great and peculiar virtues. None but Mohammedans are admitted to the Caaba or its enclosure, but a few travellers from Christendom have ventured to enter in disguise at the risk of their lives. It was thus visited by Burckhardt in 1814, by Burton in 1852, and by Maltzan in 1862. Arafat hill, 12 m. E. of Mecca, is visited by all pilgrims, who must perform there certain devotions and listen to an annual sermon before they can justly claim to have performed the pilgrimage.
It is about 200 ft. high, and rises from a gravelly plain on which the pilgrims pitch their tents, (See Arafat.) - The trade of Mecca is chiefly derived from the pilgrims, who come from all parts of the Mohammedan world, and generally bring merchandise with them. The people are lively and polished in their manners, and have a remarkable knowledge of languages. There are a few artisans, and some small potteries and dye works. The climate of Mecca is sultry and unwholesome, especially in August, September, and October. It was the birthplace of Mohammed. It is ruled by a sherif, who at present is nominally dependent on the Turkish sultan. The Wahabees took possession of Mecca in 1808 and held it till 1818, when they were expelled by the forces of Mehemet Ali, pasha of Egypt. The number of pilgrims to Mecca in 1878 was larger than for many previous years, and was estimated at 200,000. Of these, more than one half came by caravans; about 40,000 arrived by way o fjiddah and other ports on the Red sea, and for their transportation 12 ships, 87 steamboats, and a large number of small vessels were employed.
Nearly 15,000 Malays and Hindoos came from India, embarking at Calcutta and Bombay. Turks, Egyptians, Mogrebins, and Caucasians, to the number of 20,000, came by wav of the Suez canal; and there were 8,000 pilgrims from ports in the Persian gulf.
The Great Mosque, Mecca.