The Siege of Mecca

In The Siege of Mecca, veteran Middle East correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov pulls back the curtain on a thrilling, pivotal, and overlooked episode of modern history, examining its repercussions on the Middle East and the world.

Yaroslav Trofimov | The Official Website | The Siege of Mecca

Doubleday, 2007.

On November 20, 1979, worldwide attention was focused on Tehran, where the Iranian hostage crisis was entering its third week. That same morning, gunmen stunned the world by seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca, creating a siege that trapped 100,000 people and lasted two weeks, inflaming Muslim rage against the United States and causing hundreds of deaths. But in the days before CNN and Al Jazeera, the press barely took notice.

Trofimov interviews for the first time scores of direct participants in the siege, and draws upon hundreds of newly declassified documents. With the pacing, detail, and suspense of a real-life thriller, The Siege of Mecca reveals the long-lasting aftereffects of the uprising and its influence on the world today.

Winner of the Washington Institute Gold Medal for the best book on the Middle East.

Washington Post Best Book of the Year and Winner of a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. More details here.

Read an excerpt here.


  •  “Action-packed. . . . [Trofimov] combines political analysis and breathless narrative to describe the deadliest terrorist attack prior to 9/11.”

    ― Entertainment Weekly

  • “[The Siege of Mecca] begins with all the menace of a political thriller. . . . Riveting.”

    ― Conde Nast Portfolio

  • “A gripping, highly informed narrative of this momentous event.”

    ― Financial Times

  • “Saudi Arabia’s dirty laundry gets the airing it deserves in The Siege of Mecca.

    ― Vancouver Sun

  • “Trofimov has defied the strictures of one of the world’s most secretive regimes in order to bring us this story, tapping a range of impressively obscure written sources as well as tracking down a remarkable assortment of people involved in the incident.”

    ― The Washington Monthly

  • “A thriller-like account of an event largely hushed up.”

    ― The Times

  • “Fascinating… Remarkable… Anyone can read The Siege of Mecca, and everyone should.”

     The Washington Post.

  • "A gripping and revealing account of this brutal uprising … The Siege of Mecca is a marvel of investigative journalism … Trofimov's viciously gory account unfolds with a sharp eye for detail and accuracy".

    ― Ziauddin Sardar, New Statesman