Coordinates: 23°N 40°E / 23°N 40°E / 23; 40
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Al-Ḥijāz (ٱلْحِجَاز)
Islam's holiest site, that is Al-Masjid al-Haram, which surrounds the Kaaba (middle), in Mecca. Mecca is the city of Muhammad's birth and ancestry, and an annual point of pilgrimage for millions of Muslims.
Islam's holiest site, that is Al-Masjid al-Haram, which surrounds the Kaaba (middle), in Mecca. Mecca is the city of Muhammad's birth and ancestry, and an annual point of pilgrimage for millions of Muslims.
Map of the Hejaz showing the cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Yanbu and Tabuk. The Saudi region is outlined in red and the 1923 Kingdom is in green.
Map of the Hejaz showing the cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Yanbu and Tabuk. The Saudi region is outlined in red and the 1923 Kingdom is in green.
Coordinates: 23°N 40°E / 23°N 40°E / 23; 40
Country Saudi Arabia
RegionsAl-Bahah, Mecca, Medina, Tabuk

The Hejaz (/hˈæz, hɪˈ-/, also US: /hɛˈ-/; Arabic: ٱلْحِجَاز, romanizedal-Ḥijāz, lit.'the Barrier', Hejazi Arabic pronunciation: [alħɪˈdʒaːz]) is a region that includes the majority of the west coast of Saudi Arabia, covering the cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Tabuk, Yanbu, Taif and Baljurashi. It is thus known as the "Western Province",[1] and it is bordered in the west by the Red Sea, in the north by Jordan, in the east by the Najd, and in the south by the Region of 'Asir.[2] Its largest city is Jeddah, which is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia, with Mecca and Medina, respectively, being the fourth- and fifth-largest cities in the country.[3]

As the location of the cities of Mecca[4] and Medina,[5][6][7] respectively the first and second holiest sites in Islam, the Hejaz is significant in the Arabo-Islamic historical and political landscape. This region is the most populated in Saudi Arabia,[8] and Arabic is the predominant language, as in the rest of Saudi Arabia, with Hejazi Arabic being the most widely spoken dialect here. Some Hejazis are of ethnically diverse origins,[3] although the vast majority are of Arab origin.[9]

According to Islamic tradition, this region is the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who was born in Mecca, which is locally considered to have been founded by his ancestors Abraham, Ishmael, and Hagar.[10][11] The area became part of his empire through the early Muslim conquests, and it formed part of successive caliphates, first the Rashidun Caliphate, followed by the Umayyad Caliphate, and finally the Abbasid Caliphate. The Ottoman Empire held partial control over the area; after its dissolution, an independent Kingdom of Hejaz existed briefly in 1925 before being conquered by the neighbouring Sultanate of Nejd, creating the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd.[12] In September 1932, the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd joined the Saudi dominions of Al-Hasa and Qatif, creating the unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[13][14]


The name of the region is derived from a verb ḥajaza (حَجَز), from the Arabic root ḥ-j-z (ح-ج-ز), meaning "to separate",[15] and it is so called as it separates the land of the Najd in the east from the land of Tihāmah in the west.


Workers laying tracks for the Hejaz Railway near Tabuk, 1906

Prehistoric and ancient times[edit]

The city of Al-'Ula in 2012. The city's archaeological district is in the foreground, with the Hijaz Mountains in the background.

One or possibly two megalithic dolmen have been found in Hejaz.[16]

The Hejaz includes both the Mahd adh-Dhahab ("Cradle of the Gold") (23°30′13″N 40°51′35″E / 23.50361°N 40.85972°E / 23.50361; 40.85972) and a water source, now dried out, that used to flow 600 miles (970 km) north east to the Persian Gulf via the Wādi Al-Rummah and Wādi Al-Bātin system. Archaeological research led by of Boston University and the University of Qassim indicates that the river system was active in 2500–3000 BCE.[17]

According to Al-Masudi the northern part of Hejaz was a dependency of ancient Israel ,[18] and according to Butrus al-Bustani the Jews in Hejaz established a sovereign state.[19] The German orientalist Ferdinand Wüstenfeld believed that the Jews established a state in northern Hejaz.[20]

The Midianites of the Bible lived in Hejaz.[21] The northern part of the Hejaz was part of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea.[22]

Era of Abraham and Ishmael[edit]

According to Arab and Islamic sources, the civilization of Mecca started after Ibrāhīm (Abraham) brought his son Ismāʿīl (Ishmael) and wife Hājar (Hagar) here, for the latter two to stay. The Adnanites were a tribal confederation of the Ishmaelite Arabs, who trace their lineage back to Ishmael son of the Islamic prophet and patriarch Abraham and his wife Hagar through Adnan, who originate from the Hejaz.[23] Some people from the Yemeni tribe of Jurhum settled with them, and Isma'il reportedly married two women, one after divorcing another, at least one of them from this tribe, and helped his father to construct or re-construct the Ka'bah ('Cube'),[24][25][26] which would have social, religious, political and historical implications for the site and region.[10][11]

For example, in Arab or Islamic belief, the tribe of Quraysh would descend from Isma'il ibn Ibrahim, be based in the vicinity of the Ka'bah,[27] and include Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf. From the Period of Jāhiliyyah ('Ignorance') to the days of Muhammad, the often-warring Arab tribes would cease their hostilities during the time of Pilgrimage, and go on pilgrimage to Mecca, as inspired by Ibrahim.[26] It was during such an occasion that Muhammad met some Madanis who would allow him to migrate to Medina, to escape persecution by his opponents in Mecca.[28][29][30][31][32][33]

Era of Saleh[edit]

The rock-carved Qaṣr Al-Farīd at Al-Ḥijr (Hegra) or Madāʾin Ṣāliḥ ("Cities of Saleh")

Saudi Arabia's and Hejaz's first World Heritage Site that was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is that of Al-Hijr. The name Al-Ḥijr ("The Land of Stones" or "The Rocky Place") occurs in the Qur'an,[34] and the site is known for having structures carved into rocks, similar to Petra.[35][36] Construction of the structures is credited to the people of Thamud. The location is also called Madāʾin Ṣāliḥ ("Cities of Saleh"),[37][38][39][40][41][42] as it is speculated to be the city in which the Islamic prophet Saleh was sent to the people of Thamud. After the disappearance of Thamud from Mada'in Saleh, it came under the influence of other people, such as the Nabataeans, whose capital was Petra. Later, it would lie in a route used by Muslim Pilgrims going to Mecca.[22][43][44][45]

Era of Muhammad[edit]

Muhammad's Mosque in Medina, his place-of-residence after the Hijrah (Migration) from Mecca, 2010

As the land of Mecca[4] and Medina,[5][6][7] the Hejaz was where Muhammad was born, and where he founded a Monotheistic Ummah of followers, bore patience with his foes or struggled against them, migrated from one place to another, preached or implemented his beliefs, lived and died. Given that he had both followers and enemies here, a number of battles or expeditions were carried out in this area, like those of Al-Aḥzāb ("The Confederates"), Badr[46] and Ḥunayn. They involved both Makkan companions, such as Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib, Ubayda ibn al-Harith and Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, and Madani companions.[5][32][33][47][48] The Hejaz fell under Muhammad's influence as he emerged victorious over his opponents, and was thus a part of his empire.[10][28][30][31][49][50][51]

Subsequent history[edit]

Hejazi Arabian merchant and wife (Códice Casanatense, c. 1540)

Due to the presence of the two holy cities in the Hejaz, the region was ruled by numerous empires. The Hejaz was at the center of the Rashidun Caliphate, in particular whilst its capital was Medina from 632 to 656 ACE. The region was then under the control of regional powers, such as Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, throughout much of its later history. After the Ottomans lost control of it, Hejaz became an independent state.

Brief independence[edit]

After the end of the Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia, in 1916, Hussein bin Ali became the leader of an independent State of Hejaz.[52] In 1924, Ali bin Hussein succeeded as the King of Hejaz. Then Ibn Saud succeeded Hussein as the King of Hejaz and Nejd. Ibn Saud ruled the two as separate units, known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd from 1926 to 1932.

In modern Saudi Arabia[edit]

On 23 September 1932, the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[53] This day is commemorated as the Saudi National Day.[54]


The village of Dhi 'Ain in Al-Bahah Province


The cultural setting of Hejaz is greatly influenced by that of Islam, especially as it contains its 2 holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. Moreover, the Quran is considered the constitution of Saudi Arabia, and the Sharia is the main legal source. In Saudi Arabia, Islam is not just adhered politically by the government but also it has a great influence on the people's culture and everyday life.[55][56] The society is in general deeply religious, conservative, traditional, and family-oriented. Many attitudes and traditions are centuries-old, derived from Arab civilization and Islamic heritage.


Hejazi cuisine has mostly Arabian dishes like the rest of Saudi Arabia, Some dishes are native to the Hejaz, like Saleeg.[57] Other Dishes were imported from other cultures through Saudis of different origins, like Mantu (منتو), Yaghmush (يَغْمُش) and Ruz Bukhāri (رُز بُخاري) from Central Asia, Burēk (بُريك) and Šurēk شُريك and Kabab almīru (كباب الميرو) from Turkey and the Balkans, Mandi (مَنْدي) and Mutabbag (مُطَبَّق) from Yemen, Biryāni برياني and Kābli (كابلي) rice dishes from South Asia. Grilled meat dishes such as shawarma and kebab are well-known in Hejaz. The Hejazi dishes are known for their spice.


Harrat Khaybar, as seen from the International Space Station

The region is located along the Red Sea Rift. It is also known for its darker, more volcanic sand. Depending on the previous definition, the Hejaz includes some of the mountains of the Sarat range, which topographically separate the Najd from Tehamah. Bdellium plants are also abundant in the Hejaz. Saudi Arabia, and in particular the Hejaz, is home to more than 2000 dormant volcanoes.[58] Lava fields in the Hejaz, known locally by their Arabic name of ḥarrāt (حَرَّات, singular: ḥarrah (حَرَّة)), form one of Earth's largest alkali basalt regions, covering some 180,000 km2 (69,000 sq mi), an area greater than the state of Missouri.[59]



The old city of Jeddah on the coast of the Tihamah

Al Bahah Region:


Mecca Province:

Tabuk Region:

International touristic development[edit]

Beach promenade in Al-Wajh

As a component of Saudi Vision 2030, a touristic destination with an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 square miles) is under development,[66] between the towns of Umluj (25°3′0″N 37°15′54.36″E / 25.05000°N 37.2651000°E / 25.05000; 37.2651000) and Al-Wajh (26°14′11.76″N 36°28′8.04″E / 26.2366000°N 36.4689000°E / 26.2366000; 36.4689000), on the coast of the Red Sea. The project will involve "the development of 22 of the 90+ islands"[67] that lie along the coast to create a "fully integrated luxury mixed-use destination",[68] and will be "governed by laws on par with international standards".[69]


The Hejaz is the most populated region in Saudi Arabia,[8] containing 35% of the population of Saudi Arabia.[70] Most people of Hejaz are Sunnis with a Shia minority in the cities of Medina, Mecca and Jeddah. Many consider themselves more cosmopolitan because Hejaz was for centuries a part of the great empires of Islam from the Umayyads to the Ottomans.[71] People of Hejaz, who feel particularly connected to the holy places of Mecca and Medina, have probably the most strongly articulated identity of any regional grouping in Saudi Arabia.[72]


Notable Hejazis[edit]



Pre–6th century CE[edit]



Pre–6th century CE[edit]



6th–7th centuries CE[edit]


See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Quran: 7:73–79;[37] 11:61–69;[38] 26:141–158;[39] 54:23–31;[40] 89:6–13;[41] 91:11–15.[42]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Mackey, Sandra (2002). The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom (Updated ed.). New York: W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-32417-6. PBK, first edition: 1987.

External links[edit]