Ta’if (الطائف ) is a city in the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia at an elevation of 1700 metres on the slopes of the Al-Sarawat mountains. It has a population of 521,273 (2004 census). Each summer the Saudi Government moves from the heat of Riyadh to Ta'if. The city is the centre of an agricultural area known for its grapes and honey.
The inhabitants of Ta'if, are largely made up of the Hanbali
and Maliki Sunnis
. Shia Muslims
of various denominations form the second largest community of the native inhabitants. The new settlers in this climatically pleasant town are largely Wahhabi Muslims
form the central and eastern Saudi Arabia.
In the 6th century
the city of Tā'if was dominated by the Thaqīf
The town was about sixty miles southeast of Mecca . The walled city was a religious centre as it housed the idol of the goddess Al-lāt, who was then known as "the lady of Tā'if." Its climate marked the city out from its dry and barren neighbours closer to the Red Sea. Wheat, vines, and fruit were grown around Tā'if and this is how the city earned its title "the Garden of the Hijāz."
During the Year of the Elephant, this city was involved in the events
Both Ta'if and Mecca were resorts of pilgrimage. Ta'if was more pleasantly situated than Mecca itself and the people of Ta'if had close trade relations with the people of Mecca. the people of Ta'if carried on agriculture and fruit‑growing in addition to their trade activities .
620 – 632: Muhammad's era
620: Stoning of Muhammad(PBUH)
Muhammad(PBUH) went to the city named Ta'if and invited them to Islam, but they answered in a rude manner and started throwing stones at him, causing him to bleed heavily. The entire visit lasted one day. As he left the town, and sat by a fountain bleeding so heavily that he could barely see straight, the Angel Gabriel came to Muhammad and asked him if he should destroy the town by crushing two mountains over it. To this Muhammad replied in the negative, saying that "Maybe Allah will produce from their offspring ones who worship Him alone." The city later converted to Islam.
630: The Battle of Hunayn and the Conversion of the City
Ten years later, in 630, the position of Muhammad was radically altered. He was now the leader of Makkah
and most of the Hijāz.
In 630, the Battle of Hunayn
took place at Hunayn
, close to this city. Shortly after that, the unsuccessful Siege of Taif
took place. The city was assaulted by catapults from Banu Daws
, but it repeled the attacks. The Battle of Tabouk
in 631 left Tā'if completely isolated so members of Thaqīf arrived in Makkah
to negotiate the conversion of the city to Islam
. The idol of Al-lāt was destroyed along with all of the other signs of the city's previously pagan existence.
?: Exile of Marwan
Hakam ibn Wa'il
and Marwan ibn al-Hakam
were exiled from Medina
to here by Muhammad
. They were summoned back by Uthman
during his caliphate. Later, Marwan became a Caliph of the Umayyad
1517: Surrender to the Ottoman Empire
On 17 July 1517 the Sharif of Mecca
capitulated to the Ottoman
sultan Selim I
. As a sign of this, he surrendered to him the keys of the Islamic Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina
. As part of the Hejaz
, Ta'if was also given over to Ottoman control.
1802 – 1813: Conquest by Wahhabis and reconquest by the Ottomans
The city continued to be governed by the Ottomans for a further three centuries, until in 1802 it was conquered by Wahhabi
forces from the Nejd
, who were in alliance with the House of Saud
. These forces then proceeded to take Macca and Medina. The loss was keenly felt by the Ottoman Empire, which viewed itself as the protector of the Holy Cities. The Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud II
, called upon his nominal Viceroy in Egypt Muhammad Ali
, who launched an attack on the Hijaz and reconquered Ta'if in 1813.
1813: Johann Ludwig Burckhardt
In 1813, the Swiss
traveller and orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt
visited Ta'if. He has left us with an eyewitness account on the city just after its recapture by the Muhammad Ali, with whom he obtained several interviews while he was there. Burckhardt says that the wall and ditch around the city had been built by Othman el Medhayfe. There were three gates and several towers on the city walls, which, however, were weak, being in some places only 45 centimetres thick. Burckhardt says that the castle had been built by Sharif Ghalib. He notes the destruction of the city caused by the conquest of 1802. Most of the buildings were still in ruin while he was there and the tomb of Abbas
– the uncle of the Prophet and ancestor of the Abbassid Caliphate
– had been severely damaged. He also records that the population of the city is still mostly Thaqīf
, while the majority of the foreigners in the city were Indian
in origin. In terms of trade, the city was an entrepôt
1843: Building works in the 19th century
The castle and military barracks in Ta'if were repaired by the Ottomans in 1843, a Hükümet Konağı
– mansion for government business – was built in 1869, and a post office was established sometime later.
1916 – 1924: The Arab Revolt and Hashemite control
Prior to the Arab Revolt, Ahmed Bey had been made the commander of Ottoman forces in Tā'if. He had under him a force of 3,000 soldiers and 10 guns of the mountain artillery. Ghalib Pasha, the governor of the Hijaz was also present in the city. In 1916, the Hashemites launched their revolt against the Ottoman Empire in Mecca in June. That city had fallen and then in July Abdullah, the eldest son of the Hashemite leader and Sharif of Makkah Hussein bin Ali, was sent with seventy men to Tā'if. Whilst his activities in the area aroused the suspicion of Ahmed Bey, Ghalib Pasha was unconcerned by so small a force. Abdullah secretly built up his army to 5,000 men. He then cut the telegraph wires to the city and then went on the attack. All Hashemite assaults on the city were repelled by the mountain guns, and both sides settled down to an uneasy siege. However, Hashemite guns were slowly brought up to Tā'if, and then the city held out a little longer; it finally surrendered on 22 September. The city thus later became a part of the self-proclaimed Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz.
1924 – present: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
1924: Conquest by the Ikhwan under Abdulaziz al-Saud
Ta'if did not remain in Hashemite hands for very long however. Tensions between the King of the Hejaz, Hussein bin Ali
, and Abdulaziz al-Saud
, Sultan of Nejd
, soon broke out into violence. Although hostilities were temporarily patched up in 1919, by September 1924 the then Saudi-sponsored Ikhwan
under the leadership of Sultan bin Bijad
and Khaled bin Luwai
was ready to attack Ta'if. The city was supposed to have been defended by the king’s son, Ali
, but he fled in panic with his troops and many of the city’s inhabitants. 300 of them were slain by the Ikhwan. In 1926 Abdulaziz al-Saud was officially recognized as the new king of Hejaz. Ta'if remained a part of the Kingdom of Hejaz until Abdulaziz al-Saud unified his two kingdoms into one under the title of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
in 1932. The king himself was later to die in the city on 9 November 1953.
1940s: Modernization under the Saudis
Ta'if was still little more than a medieval city when the Saudis took control of it. However they later embarked on a project of modernizing the city. Saudi Arabia’s first public power generator was set up in Ta'if in the late 1940s. In terms of building roads to the isolated city, in 1965 the then king Faisal inaugurated the 54 mile mountain highway between Makkah and Ta'if, and in 1974 the 400 mile Ta'if-Abha
highway was started. By the 1991 Gulf War, Ta'if was such a modern city in terms of communications that it was chosen as the site of The Rendon Group
's television and radio network which used to feed the news to Kuwait during the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq
Places to See
Al Rudaf Park: Located south of Taif is a large natural park where clumps of tree lie scattered amidst magnificent weathered granite rocks. The site also has a small zoo.
Wadi Mitna: The Prophet Mohammed's sanctuary in 662AD, first year of Hegira. Mohammed came here to gain support of the Hawazeen and the Tawfiq but was stoned by the tribes. He was later given sanctuary by his fellows in a small house now used as a mosque.
Al Shafa: A small village situated high upon the Sarawat mountains, rich in agricultural products. The fruit gardens of Taif are located here. Great view for the camera buff and for those with an adventurous heart, try a camel ride.
Rock Carving Site: Located 40km north of Taif, this was the site of the largest and most well known of the pre-Islamic souqs or gathering places. The souq was a scene for annual social, political and commercial gatherings. It was also the location of competitive recitation of poetry and prose. The buildings remain, including prominent outlines of walls of basaltic stone.
Nature Reserve: Between Al Hada hospital and the Sheraton Hotel a the top of Al Hada mountain is a large nature preserve. Al Hada means tranquillity and this preserve of trees and plants offers a true respite. It is also good location to catch the sunset over the mountain.
Turkish Fort: The remains of the fort are located near the Rock Carvings, legend has it that Lawrence of Arabia fought here in 1917. Many battles have been fought there and many graves can be found
When driving to Jeddah from Ta'if non-Muslim travellers will have to use the non-Muslim Bypass to get around Mecca, this adds about 70 miles to your trip.
List of inhabitants
During the pre-Islamic
era, the city was populated by the tribe of Thaqif
. The city had then the following chieftains:
- and at least four others.
People born here
People who lived here
- Hugh Kennedy - The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates
- Martin Lings - Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources
- John Lewis Burckhardt (Johann Ludwig Burckhardt) - Travels in Arabia; comprehending an account of those territories in Hedjaz which the Mohammedans regard as sacred, online version available free from Project Gutenberg here.
- Pars Tuğlacı – Osmanlı Şehirleri
- Michael Asher - Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia
- David Holden and Richard Jones - The House of Saud