City - Madinah
Madinah, the second holiest city in Saudi Arabia, is located in the Hejaz region, 120 miles from the Red Sea and 210 miles north of Makkah. The city is 2,046 feet above sea level, and is surrounded by several mountains: Al-Hujaj, Sala’, and AL-E’er. It sits in a well-watered oasis where fruit, dates, vegetables and grains are grown. The city of Madinah forms an oval, surrounded by double walls 30-40 feet high (that date from the 12th century CE), flanked by bastions, and pierced by nine gates. The Babal-al-Salam, or Egyptian gate, is especially beautiful. Madinah has historical significance as both the city to which Muhammad fled when he was driven out of Makkah and the place where he is buried. Madinah is also the city in which the Holy Qur’an was compiled. Today, the population of Madinah is 1.3 million (2007).
The most important historical areas of Madinah are: the Mosque of the Prophet, the Mosque of Qubaa, the Sayyid AL-Shuhada or ‘Master of Martyrs’ area, and the AL-Qiblatain Mosque. The Mosque of the Prophet (Masjid At Nabawi), with its high dome and minarets, resembles the mosque at Makkah, and serves as the spiritual and physical heart of the city. Its chief building contains the tombs of Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, and the caliphs Umar and Abu Kakr. The Mosque of Qubaa has recently been expanded to 5,000 square meters. The Sayyid AL-Shuhada area, which contains the Ohud and Al-Rumat mountains, is the place where a battle took place between Muslims and pagans.
For shopping, there is the Old Bazaar. There are also several internet cafes scattered around the city. Given the large number of visitors to Madinah, one should avoid carrying large amounts of money. Madinah is served by the Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport. For transportation around the city, taxis are available; it is a good idea to agree on a price beforehand. One can also take an Aiyyarah—a coach or mini bus that goes to several holy places. The weather in Madinah is dry and its summers are extremely hot; there is less than one inch of rain throughout the year. Dress, as in all Saudi cities, requires that women wear the abaya, a black overgarment, and that men not wear shorts.
Madinah has one university and several private and international schools. Only Muslims are allowed to enter the city, so opportunities for Western teachers are available only to those of the Muslim faith.