Mecca and Medina have been expanded over time to accommodate increasing numbers of worshippers. Presently, Saudi Arabia controls both cities, but this is becoming increasingly controversial among Muslims.
As Middle Eastern conflicts raise tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan will find it increasingly challenging to navigate through the turmoil while maintaining a meaningful balance in its relationships with Riyadh and Tehran.
This year includes an alignment at mid-September of the main holy days in the Jewish and Islamic calendars. At sundown on September 13, Jews observed the first of their High Holy Days, and their recognized commencement of the new year, Rosh Hashanah.
The world, and especially moderate, traditional, spiritual, conventional and even conservative -- but few radical -- Muslims have watched in dismay as the spurious "Islamic State" (ISIS) has undertaken the systematic destruction of the pre-Islamic monuments at Palmyra in Syria.
The $3.5 billion hotel will be built in the Manafia area of Mecca's central zone. In addition to the hotel, the 645,830-square-foot complex includes a shopping mall, restaurants, helipads, a bus station and a convention center.
A three-minute video, posted by a Saudi government-backed organization to YouTube on June 4, has garnered 150,000 views in 48 hours and sparked a discussion in the kingdom about how to stem sectarian conflict.