from Wikipedia Mecca:
Mecca IPA: /ˈmɛkə/, also spelled Makkah IPA: [ˈmækə] (in full: Makkah Al-Mukarramah IPA: [(Arabic) mækːæ(t) ælmʊkarˑamæ]; Arabic: مكّة المكرمة) is Islam's holiest city home to the Kaaba shrine and the Grand mosque. The city is known for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which being one of the five pillars of Islam, attracts close to 2 million pilgrims.
Islamic tradition attributes the beginning of Mecca to Ishmael's descendants. In the 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad proclaimed Islam in the city, by now an important trading center, and the city played an important role in the early history of Islam. After 966, Mecca was led by local sharifs, until 1924, when it came under the rule of the Saudis. In its modern period, Mecca has seen a great expansion in size and infrastructure.
The modern day city is located in and the capital of Saudi Arabia's Makkah Province, in the historic Hejaz region. With a population of 1,700,000 (2008), the city is located 73 kilometres (45 miles) inland from Jeddah, in a narrow valley, and 277 metres (910 ft) above sea level.