Ascend to the Site of the Revelation: The Ka'aba may be the holiest site in Islam, but the history of the religion starts in Mecca's surrounding desert. Just outside the city is Ghar Hira (Cave of Hira), on Jabal Al Nur. Your Hajj/Ummrah group leader can organize an excursion to climb the 600 steps to the spot where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad received the first revelation of the Qu'ran from the Angel Gabriel.

Follow the Trail to Ghar Al Thawr: When fleeing his persecutors, the Prophet Muhammad hid from his enemies in Ghar Al Thawr (Cave of the Bull), on mount Al Thawr. Prepare for a long and rocky climb as you follow the trail with your tour guide. From the peak on a clear day, you may catch a glimpse of the Holy Mosque in the distance. Once inside, you'll feel the presence of millions of pilgrims who made the trek before you.

Examine Islam's Early Artifacts: The Haram mosque and even the Ka'aba have been rebuilt a few times since the inception of Islam. Ask your tour agent to arrange a visit to the Museum of the Two Harams, which houses centuries-old artifacts from these two holy structures, such as parts of the minarets of the Holy Mosque and the frame of the Black Stone dating back to the Ottoman era. One of the most striking displays is a lock and key of the Ka'aba door last used in the 1300s.

Ready Yourself for Bazaar Mode: With new construction a civic priority, the old bazaars and souks in Mecca are literally disappearing. Near the Haram complex is Souq Gaza. With a few free hours to stroll through the narrow alleys, you'll pass dozens of stalls lined with prayer rugs, beads, and perfumes, and small shops swamped with clothes or religious ornaments. Goldsmiths here offer quality, handmade jewelry and everyone is willing to haggle.

Love Your Labels: New construction in the Old City includes a clutch of shiny new international high-rise hotels and the Al Abraj Al Bait shopping mall, right outside the Haram Mosque. Al Abraj Al Bait has upscale department stores and luxury stores selling a roster of labels to rival any high-end shopping mall in the world. The food court here has familiar fast food chains with one major difference: They serve halal food.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.