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MEDINA

Medina is a city in Saudi Arabia, to the north of Mecca. It is the second holy city of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina from Mecca, and taught there for some years before his triumphant return to Mecca. The city is commonly visited as part of the Hajj pilgrimage. Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering Central Medina. The penalty is deportation from the country.

Since it is visited only by Muslims, for religious purposes, the main thing to see is the Masjid Nabawi or the Prophet's Mosque where devout Muslims offer prayers. Men are allowed to visit the actual burial site of the Prophet and pay respects throughout the opening hours of the mosque, which used to close for the night at around 10PM but has since become 24/7. Women may visit only after the Fajr or dawn and Duhr or afternoon prayers, when they are taken there in groups according to their countries. In fact most of the things to be done or seen are around this grand mosque which is at the city centre.

Adjacent to the mosque is Jannatul Baqi, a huge graveyard, where most family members and companions of the Prophet are buried. Other things to be seen, a little away from the city,are the plains and mountain of Uhud where the battle took place. There is also the burial ground of the 70 martyrs of this battle including the Prophet's uncle Hamza who is considered one of the greatest martyrs of all time.

Further away is the Masjid Qiblatayen where the Quran recounts that the Prophet was ordered by Allah to turn his face from Jerusalem to the Kaaba in Makkah while offering prayers. Masjid Jumua is where the Prophet prayed the first Jumua or Friday prayers. Masjid Gamama is where once Prophet Muhammad had prayed for rain. Masjid Quba at Quba is the first mosque of Islam. Another place worth visiting is the battleground of Khandaq or the Trench.

The streets leading to and around the Prophet's Mosque are lined with shops selling goods of every variety. Visitors to Medina usually buy prayer rugs, caps, Tasveeh or rosary beads, pictures of the holy city and mosques, religious CDs, copies of the Holy Quran, clocks sounding Azan or the call to prayer as souvenirs to take back with them or as gifts for family and friends. The best of them to take back are dates from Medina.

There are restaurants selling almost all types of food from all over the world. There are Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants in abundance. There is also Chinese, Indonesian, Turkish, Egyptian, and local food. The cheapest local specialities are shawarma, taamiyya (a type of vegetable sandwich), foul (cooked beans) with tameez (bread), roasted whole chickens called Broasts.

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