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

James Pasley
Muslim pilgrims carrying umbrellas to block the sun.

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.
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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.

Reza / Getty

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

Scott Kelly / NASA / Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

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

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.

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.

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.

Reza / Getty

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

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.

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.

Mohammed Al-Shaikh / AFP / Getty

Source: The National

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

Mustafa Ciftci / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Source: Forbes

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

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.

Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty

Source: Eco-Business

To keep cool, pilgrims may also eat ice cream.

Abid Katib / Getty

Source: New York Times

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

Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

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

Ramazan Turgut / Anadolu Agency / Getty

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

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.

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.

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.

Ozkan Bilgin / Anadolu / Getty

Sources: Britannica, My Weather 2

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

Source: Wired