The Arabian Peninsula is an enormous land mass that makes up the south-central portion of western Asia, also known as the Middle East. It is now home to the nations of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and United Arab Emirates, and several other small so-called Gulf States. Arabia is bordered on the west by the Red Sea, on the south by the Arabian Sea, and on the east by the Persian Gulf. Mostly desert, the peninsula is larger than Iran and Iraq combined, twice the size of Egypt, and about 10 percent larger than Alaska. The total population today is just over twenty million. Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, the peninsula’s largest nation state. Jidda is the Red Sea port that serves the holy city of Mecca, Muhammad’s home town. Medina, the second holy city, is about two hundred miles north of Mecca.
Pilgrims circumambulate the Ka’aba at Masjidil Haram in Mecca. Mecca is the birthplace of Muhammad and Islam’s most holy city. (Ahmad Faizal Yahya / Shutterstock.com.)