30 photos show what life is like in the hottest inhabited city on earth

Muslim pilgrims carrying umbrellas to block the sun.

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Muslim pilgrims carrying umbrellas to block the sun.
source
Mustafa Ciftci / Anadolu / Getty

  • Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, is the world’s hottest city.
  • It is the warmest inhabited place on earth, with an average annual temperature of 87.3 degrees Fahrenheit. In summer, temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • It has more than 1.5 million permanent residents, and another 2 million pilgrims journey there each year.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Islam’s holiest city is also the world’s hottest city.

Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is the warmest inhabited place on earth. Its average annual temperature is 87.3 degrees Fahrenheit. In summer, temperatures can reach 122 degrees fahrenheit.

The city is located in Sirat Mountains, inland from the Red Sea, 900 feet above sea level.

On top of the heat, it gets busy. While a little over 1.5 million people live there permanently, more than 2 million pilgrims travel to Mecca annually. Every Muslim, who is able and can afford it, is expected to travel there at least once in their life for the Hajj. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca.

For those who live there year-round, winters are a little more manageable. But it never gets cold.

These photos show what it’s like in the world’s hottest inhabited city.


Welcome to Mecca, the world’s hottest inhabited place.

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A view of Mecca.
source
Reza / Getty

In Mecca, during the summer, between June and September, temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the streets get busy.

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Muslim pilgrims walk on a bridge.
source
Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Sources: Weather Spark, Britannica


The city has about 1.5 million permanent residents, but more than 2 million pilgrims flood into Mecca for six days for the Hajj every year.

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Muslim pilgrims attend Grand Mosque to perform their evening prayers.
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Fayez Nureldine / AFP / Getty

Sources: Al Arabiya, The National, Al Jazeera


The main day of the pilgrimage, which requires worship outside from sunrise to sunset, can be particularly trying.

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Muslim pilgrims pray near Mount Arafat.
source
Mustafa Ozer / AFP / Getty

Source: Forbes


The closest city to Mecca is Jeddah, a seaside port on the Red Sea. It’s about 70 miles miles away and requires traveling through the desert to get there.

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Desert in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
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Eric Lafforgue / Gamma-Rapho / Getty

Source: UNESCO


Mecca’s wild temperatures are due to it’s location, in a dry valley at the base of the Sirat Mountains …

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pilgrims are seen on the top of the Jabal Thawr,
source
Ozkan Bilgin /Anadolu Agency / Getty

Sources: Britannica, Seasons of the Year


… surrounded by the Arabian Desert. Its average annual temperature is 87.3 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s a dry heat.

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Shepherds herd goats in the desert outside Mecca.
source
Reza / Getty

Sources: Britannica, Seasons of the Year


There’s very little greenery, as the view from space shows here. The white structure in the middle is the Great Mosque.

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Mecca seen from an International Space Station.
source
Scott Kelly / NASA / Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia


For the next 10 years, the Hajj will be during the summer.

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A Muslim pilgrim climbs the Mount Al-Noor.
source
Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

Sources: Al Arabiya, The National


But the high temperatures are nothing new. Seen here is a pilgrim being given a cold bath to cope with the heat in 1967.

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A Muslim pilgrim is given a cold bath to help him cope with the heat at a first aid centre in Mecca.
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Tetlow / Fox Photos / Getty

In 1985, a reported 2,000 people got heat stroke, and more than 1,000 of those people ended up dying.

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Muslim pilgrims try to enter Heera cave.
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Muhannad Fala’ah / Getty

Source: Vox


Dealing with the heat requires preparation. Hotels and some home owners, like the Saudi royalty seen here, have air conditioning.

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The Saudi princes sit with a view, in the comfort of an air-conditioned room.
source
Reza / Getty

And one of Mecca’s cooler spots is around the Kaaba, one of Islam’s most holy objects.

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Hajj pilgrims at the Kaaba at Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
source
Ashraf Amra / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Sources: Khaleej Times, The National


The ground near the Kaaba is made from white Thassos marble, which was imported from Greece. It reflects the sun and heat during the day and remains cool even on hot days. The area also has an abundance of air conditioning.

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A Muslim pilgrim prays on top of the white Thassos marble, near the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca.
source
Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

Sources: Khaleej Times, The National


But people have to go outside. It’s common for pilgrims to buy lots of water to help them get through the heat later in the day.

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A pilgrim carrying a bottle of water.
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Mohammed Al-Shaikh / AFP / Getty

Source: The National


For those who need to be outside in the heat, umbrellas are a must.

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Muslim pilgrims carry umbrellas to block the sun.
source
Mustafa Ciftci / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Source: Forbes


Some have modified them to limit energy use as much as possible.

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An umbrella set on a woman’s head.
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Mohammed Al-Shaikh / AFP / Getty

One man has even created a “smart umbrella,” which uses solar energy to power a fan to keep the user cool. It also has a flashlight, a USB outlet to charge phones, and a GPS tracker.

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Saudi engineer Kamel Badawi shows his invention, the smart umbrella.
source
Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty

Source: Eco-Business


To keep cool, pilgrims may also eat ice cream.

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Muslim pilgrim eats ice-cream.
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Abid Katib / Getty

Source: New York Times


And whenever there’s time for a break, people keep drinking water.

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Muslim pilgrims sit on the sidewalk around the Grand Mosque.
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Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Water is even sprayed into the mouths of those in need.

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A man is hydrated in Mecca.
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Ramazan Turgut / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Since Mecca is in the desert, even during the evening temperatures only drop to about 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Pilgrims pray at Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
source
Karim Sahib / AFP / Getty

Sources: My Weather 2, Weather and Climate


For the 1.5 million residents who live there year-round, two of Mecca’s main industries are now tourism and construction. Thirteen of 15 of Mecca’s old neighborhoods have been rebuilt for tourism and commerce.

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Construction works are carried out as part of the Grand Mosque expansion project in the holy city of Mecca
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Mohamed Al Hwaity / Reuters

Source: The Guardian


Smaller businesses like tour guides, vegetable sellers, and street vendors are struggling to compete with the newly built fast-food chains and hotels.

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A street vendor sells watches in Mecca.
source
Reza / Getty

Source: The Guardian


During the winter, locals can look forward to milder temperatures, with an average high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and a low of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

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A man rest in the shade to cool down.
source
Ozkan Bilgin / Anadolu / Getty

Sources: Britannica, My Weather 2


Over the entire year, there is usually fewer than 5 inches of rain.

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Muslim pilgrims pray under the rain in 2015.
source
Ozkan Bilgin / Andadolu Agency / Getty

Sources: Britannica, My Weather 2


Due to the arid, harsh conditions, wild animals and plants aren’t abundant. Seen here is a cat sleeping on a mountain.

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A cat sleeps on Mount Al-Noor.
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Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

Other wild animals in the area include wolves, hyenas, foxes, mongooses, and jerboas. There has also been a surge in monkeys in Mount Al-Noor District since weapons used to shoot them were banned.

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A Muslim pilgrim gives a water to a monkey.
source
Ozkan Bilgin / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Sources: Britannica, Al Arabiya


If carbon emissions continue at their current rate, by 2100, Mecca’s maximum temperature could soar to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

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A water spray cooling system cools people in Mecca.
source
Firat Yurdakul / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Source: Business Insider


If it continues to get hotter, the Hajj may become a physically impossible journey due to heat stress.

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Muslim pilgrims arrive at the plains of Arafat.
source
Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

Source: Wired