Al-Hejaz, also Hijaz (Arabic: الحجاز al-Ḥiǧāz, literally "the barrier"), is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. It is bordered on the west by the Red Sea, on the north by Jordan, on the east by Najd, and on the south by Asir. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As the site of Islam's holy places, the Hejaz has significance in the Arab and Islamic historical and political landscape.
Historically, Hejaz has always seen itself as separate from the rest of Saudi Arabia. Hejaz is the most populated region in Saudi Arabia; 35% of all Saudis live in Hejaz. Hejazi Arabic is the most spoken accent in the region. Saudi Hejazis are of ethnically diverse origins.
Hejaz is the most cosmopolitan region in the Arabian Peninsula. People of Hejaz have the most strongly articulated identity of any regional grouping in Saudi Arabia. Their place of origin alienates them from the Saudi state, which invokes different narratives of the history of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, Hejazis experienced tensions with people of Najd.
The Hejaz includes both the Cradle of Gold at Mahd adh Dhahab ( ) and a potential water source now dried out that used to flow 600 miles (970 km) north east to the Persian Gulf via the Wadi Al-Rummah and Wadi Al-Batin system. Archaeological research led by of Boston University and the University of Qassim indicates that the river system was active in 8000 BCE and 2500–3000 BCE.
The northern part of Hejaz was part of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. The region is so called as it separates the land of Najd in the east from the land of Tihamah in the west. It is also known as the "Western Province".
Early Islamic era
Muhammad sent some of his fighters to the Hejaz. Ubaydah ibn al-Harith was the commander of the second raid to be carried out against the Quraysh. This raid took place nine months after the Hijra, a few weeks after the first one at al-Is.
About a month after Hamzah's unsuccessful bid to plunder, Muhammad entrusted a party of sixty Muhajirun led by Ubaydah to conduct another operation at a Quraysh caravan that was returning from Syria and protected by two hundred armed men. The leader of this caravan was Abu Sufyan ibn Harb.
The Muslim party went as far as Thanyatul-Murra, a watering place in Hejaz. No fighting took place, as the Quraysh were quite far from the place where Muslims were in the offing to attack the caravan. Nevertheless, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas shot an arrow at the Quraysh. This is known as the first arrow of Islam. Despite this surprise attack, no fighting took place and the Muslims returned empty-handed. It is believed that Ubaydah was the first to carry the banner of Islam; others say Hamzah was the first to carry the first banner .
In 1916, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali proclaimed himself king of an independent Hejaz, as a result of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence. The ensuing Arab Revolt overthrew the Ottoman Empire. In 1924, however, ibn Ali's authority was usurped by Ibn Saud of the neighboring region of Najd, uniting it into what became known as the Kingdom of Hijaz and Najd and later the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In modern Saudi Arabia
Due to the presence of two holy cities in Hejaz, the region went under numerous empires throughout its modern history. Hijaz was later at the centre of the Caliphate, before its capital was moved to Damascus. The region was then under the control of regional powers such as Egypt and the Ottoman Empire through much of its later history, after which the Hejaz had a brief period of political independence in the early 20th century.
Flags of entities that have dominated Hejaz
Flag of the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661).
Flag of the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750).
Flag of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258).
Flag of the Fatimid Caliphate (909–1171).
Flag of the Ayyubid dynasty (1171–1254).
Flag of the Mamluk Sultanate (1254–1517).
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1517–1916).
Flag of the Kingdom of Hejaz (1916–1925).
Flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (1925–present).
People of Hejaz
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. Their place of origin alienates them from the Saudi state, which invokes different narratives of the history of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, they experienced tensions with people of Najd.
The people of Hejaz have never fully accommodated to Saudi and Wahhabi rule. Many consider themselves more cosmopolitan because Hejaz was for centuries a part of the great empires of Islam from the Umayyads to the Ottomans.
This is compensated, however, by huge oil income, with all the oil found in the opposite end of Saudi Arabia.
The region is located along the Red Sea Rift. The region is also known for its darker, more volcanic sand. Depending on the previous definition, Hejaz includes the high mountains of Sarawat which topographically separate Najd from Tehamah. Bdellium plants are also abundant in the Hijaz.
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The Hijaz is the largest, most populated, and most culturally and religiously diverse region of Saudi Arabia, in large part because it was the traditional host area of all the pilgrims to Mecca, many of whom settled and intermarried there.
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