A pilgrimage , or as it is called in Arabic ( Hajj ) is a special religious journey Muslims aim to make at least once in their lifetime . This includes visiting the Ka'bah and standing before God on Mount Arafat . Before entering Mecca the pilgrims must enter the state of ihram , which is the ' state of ritual purity '. During this period male pilgrims wear two sheets of plain white cloth - one wrapped round the waist , the other over the left shoulder . Women wear a plain white garment that covers them , leaving only their hands and faces bare .

All pilgrims dress alike to symbolise that they are equal before God .The true Hajj is to be made on the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar , known as the Dhu-el-Hijja . To make this pilgrimage to Mecca ( the Hajj ) the pilgrims must be: * Muslim - non-Muslims are forbidden to enter the holy city ( Mecca ) * physically fit and able to undertake the strain of the journey * able to provide for the dependants they leave behind * able to pay for the Hajj without having to obtain the money dishonestly . Over two million Muslims make the pilgrimage each year . ( See Appendix A )There are a number of reasons why a Muslim may go on a pilgrimage , some of the most important are as follows : * It creates a sense of unity and community .

As Ibn Batutta who made the pilgrimage in 1325 supports this view : ' There were so many people there that the earth seemed to move like the sea . With this caravan there were many camels carrying food and water for the poor , and medicine and sugar for those who fell . Whenever the caravan stopped , food was cooked in great brass pots , and from these the poorer pilgrims were fed ' It strengthens individual faith and identity.It is a focus of spirituality .

* It symbolises their equality - they all wear the same simple clothes and perform the same rituals . As the American Black Muslim Malcolm X said : ' We were all participating in the same ritual , displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist ' Why did Mecca ; Medina become be a centre for pilgrimage ? Mecca Mecca came to be a centre for pilgrimage because it contains the Ka'bah , a cube shaped holy building in Mecca .Its importance lies in the fact that according to the Qur'an it was first built by Abraham and his son Ishmael , who received it from Gabriel . After a period of religious dispute , the Ka'bah came under the control of Muslims led by Muhammad .

Since then the Ka'bah has been the focus of Muslim worship and devotion . Medina Medina is the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca . Its early history is closely linked to the prophet Muhammad , because it was to Medina that he made his Hijra ( flight ) in 622 and where he also built a mosque .Pilgrims may visit the city once they have completed their Hajj in Mecca .

The flight to Medina is of such significance that the Islamic calendar was started from that day. Describe what can be seen there today Mecca In Mecca there are a number of attractions worth seeing . One of the most important buildings is the Ka'bah . It is a plain , cube shaped building made from blocks .

Inside it is beautifully decorated with texts from the Qu'ran . At Mecca one can also see the black stone which is an oval rock about 18 cm in diameter , set in the south - east corner of the Ka'bah .The two small hills Marwah and Safa , which since have been enclosed under domes and united by a walkway . Zamzam , this is a famous well , which is situated in the courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca . Pilgrims collect water from it to drink and to take home . Medina Medina has a number of famous buildings .

There is a Mosque , containing the tombs of Muhammad , his daughter Fatima and the Caliph Omar ( See Appendix B ) It also has a printing press which prints the Qur'an in any language . There is also a famous library in Medina .