The Hejaz (, also ; Arabic: ٱلْحِجَاز, romanized: al-Ḥijāz, lit. 'the Barrier', Hejazi pronunciation: [alħɪˈdʒaːz]) is a region in the west of Saudi Arabia. The name of the region is derived from a verb ḥajaza (حَجَز), from the Arabic root ḥ-j-z (ح-ج-ز), meaning "to separate," and it is so called as it separates the land of the Najd in the east from the land of Tihāmah in the west. It is also known as the "Western Province." It is bordered in the west by the Red Sea, in the north by Jordan, in the east by the Najd, and in the south by the 'Asir Region. Its largest city is Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, with Mecca and Medina being the fourth and fifth largest cities respectively in the country.
The Hejaz is significant for being the location of the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the first and second holiest sites in Islam, respectively. As the site of the two holiest sites in Islam, the Hejaz has significance in the Arab and Islamic historical and political landscape. The Hejaz is the most populated region in Saudi Arabia, containing 35% of the population of Saudi Arabia. Arabic is the predominant language as in the rest of Saudi Arabia, with Hejazi Arabic being most widely spoken dialect in the region. Hejazi Saudis are of ethnically diverse origins.
The region is the birthplace of the Islamic Ummah (Community) of Muhammad, who was born in Mecca, which is locally considered to have been founded by the Biblical figures Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. The area became part of his empire through the early Muslim conquests, and it formed part of successive caliphates, first the Rashidun caliphate, followed by the Umayyad caliphate, and finally the Abbasid caliphate. The Ottoman Empire held partial control over the area; after its dissolution, an independent Kingdom of Hejaz existed briefly in 1925 before being conquered by the neighbouring Sultanate of Nejd, creating the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd. In September 1932, the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd joined the Saudi dominions of Al-Hasa and Qatif, creating the unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Hejaz includes both the Mahd adh-Dhahab ("Cradle of the Gold") () and a water source, now dried out, that used to flow 600 miles (970 km) north east to the Persian Gulf via the Wādi Al-Rummah and Wādi Al-Bātin system. Archaeological research led by of Boston University and the University of Qassim indicates that the river system was active in 8000 BCE and 2500–3000 BCE.
Saudi Arabia's first World Heritage Site that was recognized by the is that of Al-Hijr. The name "Al-Ḥijr" ("The Land of Stones" or "The Rocky Place") occurs in the Qur'an, and the site is known for having structures carved into rocks, similar to Petra. Construction of the structures is credited to the people of Thamud. The location is also called "Madā’in Ṣāliḥ" ("Cities of Saleh"), as it is speculated to be the city in which the Islamic Nabī (Prophet) Salih was sent to the people of Thamud. After the disappearance of Thamud from Mada'in Saleh, it came under the influence of other people, such as the Nabataeans, whose capital was Petra. Later, it would lie in a route used by Muslim Pilgrims going to Mecca.
According to Arab and Islamic sources, the civilization of Mecca started after Ibrāhīm (Abraham) brought his son Ismāʿīl (Ishmael) and wife Hājar (Hagar) here, for the latter two to stay. Some people from the Yemeni tribe of Jurhum settled with them, and Isma'il reportedly married two women, one after divorcing another, at least one of them from this tribe, and helped his father to construct or re-construct the Ka'bah ('Cube'), which would have social, religious, political and historical implications for the site and region.
For example, in Arab or Islamic belief, the tribe of Quraysh would descend from Isma'il ibn Ibrahim, be based in the vicinity of the Ka'bah, and include Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf. From the Period of Jāhiliyyah ('Ignorance') to the days of Muhammad, the often-warring Arab tribes would cease their hostilities during the time of Pilgrimage, and go on pilgrimage to Mecca, as inspired by Ibrāhim. It was during such an occasion that Muhammad met some Medinans who would allow him to migrate to Medina, to escape persecution by his opponents in Mecca.
As the land of Mecca and Medina, the Hejaz was where Muhammad was born, and where he founded a Monotheistic Ummah of followers, bore patience with his foes or struggled against them, migrated from one place to another, preached or implemented his beliefs, lived and died. Given that he had both followers and enemies here, a number of battles or expeditions were carried out in this area, like those of Al-Aḥzāb ("The Confederates"), Badr and Ḥunayn. They involved both Meccan companions, such as Hamzah ibn Abdul-Muttalib, Ubaydah ibn al-Harith and Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, and Medinan companions. The Hijaz fell under Muhammad's influence as he emerged victorious over his opponents, and was thus a part of his empire.
Due to the presence of the two holy cities in the Hejaz, the region was ruled by numerous empires. The Hejaz was at the center of the Rashidun Caliphate, in particular whilst its capital was Medina from 632 to 656 ACE. The region was then under the control of regional powers such as Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, throughout much of its later history.
In 1916, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali proclaimed himself King of an independent Hejaz, as a result of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence. The ensuing Arab Revolt overthrew the Ottoman Empire. In 1924, however, Ibn Ali was forced into exile by Ibn Saud of the Najd.
The region is located along the Red Sea Rift. It is also known for its darker, more volcanic sand. Depending on the previous definition, the Hejaz includes some of the mountains of the Sarat range, which topographically separate the Najd from Tehamah. Bdellium plants are also abundant in the Hijaz. Saudi Arabia, and in particular the Hejaz, is home to more than 2000 dormant volcanoes. Lava fields in the Hejaz, known locally by their Arabic name of ḥarrāt (حَرَّات, singular: ḥarrah (حَرَّة)), form one of Earth’s largest alkali basalt regions, covering some 180,000 km2 (69,000 sq mi), an area greater than the state of Missouri.
As a component of Saudi Vision 2030, a 28,000 square kilometer tourism destination is under development on the Red Sea coast between the towns of Umluj () and Al-Wajh (), in the northern section of the Hejazi coast. The project will involve "the development of 22 of the 90+ islands" that lie along the coast to create a "fully integrated luxury mixed-use destination." and will be "governed by laws on par with international standards".
People of Hejaz, who feel particularly connected to the holy places of Mecca and Medina, have probably the most strongly articulated identity of any regional grouping in Saudi Arabia.
Most people of Hejaz are Sunni of Maliki rite with a Shia minority in the cities of Medina, Mecca and Jeddah. Many consider themselves more cosmopolitan because Hejaz was for centuries a part of the great empires of Islam from the Umayyads to the Ottomans.