Kaaba in Mecca: Image Gallery with Photos, Drawings, Illustrations, and Diagrams

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What is the Kaaba?

The Kaaba sits in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Kaaba sits in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia The Kaaba sits in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Source: Public Domain

The Kaaba is Islam's Holiest Shrine

The Kaaba is Islam's holiest site and, as such, knowing more about it is critical to knowing more about Islam itself. The history of the Kaaba is intertwined with the origin of Islam because it appears that Muhammad used the Kaaba for political purposes, promoting new stories about the Kaaba's history in order to connect his new created religion with ancient Judaism. These efforts failed, but the stories remain and continue to feed the idea that Islam is the most valid religion. Knowing more about the Kaaba thus means knowing that not everything Muslims believe about Islam and Muhammad is true.

The Kaaba (Ka’aba, Ka’bah, “Cube,” “House of God”) is a shrine located in a square adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. The Kaaba itself is Islam’s holiest site. The surrounding square has been enlarged to over 16,000 square meters and can accommodate over 300,000 Muslim pilgrims. When Muslims pray the required five times each day, they face not simply Mecca, but the Kaaba in Mecca; Muslims praying in Mecca turn towards the Kaaba instead of facing just any direction.

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Architecture of the Kaaba

Diagram of the Kaaba: Interior, Exterior of the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca
Diagram of the Kaaba: Interior and Exterior of the Kaaba Diagram of the Kaaba: Interior and Exterior of the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Source: Wikipedia

The name Kaaba means “cube,” but the structure isn’t a cube: it measures 12m long, 10m wide, and 15m high (33 feet x 50 feet x 45 feet). The Kaaba is built from grey granite and each corner points to one of the four points of the compass. The single Entrance is on the northeast, side, 2.3m above the ground. The interior of the Kaaba is bare except for three supporting wooden pillars and gold hanging lamps. Affixed to the eastern corner of the Kaaba, about 1.5m up, is the Black Stone of Mecca.

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The Kaaba and the Kiswah

The Kaaba and the Kiswah: The Kaaba in Mecca is Covered by a Black Robe, called a Kiswah
The Kaaba in Mecca is Covered by a Black Robe, called a Kiswah The Kaaba and the Kiswah: The Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca is Covered by a Black Robe, called a Kiswah. Souce: Public Domain

The exterior of the Kaaba is usually covered with a large black cloth called the kiswah (“robe”) that has Quranic verses embroidered with gold thread on it. Each year a new one is created and, prior to 1927, it was provided by Egyptian artisans who brought it with them in a pilgrimage caravan that travelled from Cairo.

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The Kaaba in Muslim Mythology

Drawing of Throngs of Pilgrims around the Kaaba in Mecca
Drawing of Throngs of Pilgrims around the Kaaba in Mecca Drawing of Throngs of Pilgrims around the Kaaba in Mecca. Souce: Public Domain

According to Muslim traditions, Adam built the original Kaaba as a copy of and directly below God’s throne in heaven. This structure was destroyed during the great Flood, leaving behind nothing but the foundation. The current structure was rebuilt by Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ishmael (Ismail). A gilded cage near the Kaaba contains a stone preserving a footprint of Abraham. Establishing this ancient pedigree for the Kaaba helped Muhammad connect his new faith with the Judaism.

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The Kaaba and Muhammad

Muhammad at the Kaaba in Mecca
Muhammad at the Kaaba in Mecca Muhammad at the Kaaba in Mecca. Source: Public Domain

When Muhammad received his revelation, the Kaaba was under the control of one of the most important tribes of Mecca, the Quraysh. It was used as a shrine for pagan idols, especially al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat, known together as al-Gharaniq (Daughters of God), and Hubal, a marriage god. When Muhammad took control of Mecca he cleaned out the idols and dedicated the Kaaba to God.

Now, non-believers aren't even allowed in the area around Mecca, never mind into the city itself or near the Kaaba. Muslims tend to ignore the degree to which the Kaaba was originally just another pagan temple housing pagan idols and the degree to which Islamic practice mirrors the ancient pagan practices that were part of the worship of those idols. Like with Christianity a few centuries earlier, Islam's popularity and subsequent growth were greatly enhanced by its ability to incorporate local pagan traditions alongside strict orthodoxy.

Above: Miniature of Mohammed re-dedicating the Black Stone at the Kaaba. From Jami' al-Tavarikh ("The Universal History" or "Compendium of Chronicles," written by Rashid Al-Din), a manuscript in the Library of the University of Edinburgh; illustrated in Tabriz, Persia, c. 1315.

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The Kaaba and the Hajj

Pilgrims Surround the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca
Pilgrims Surround the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca Pilgrims Surround the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca. Souce: Public Domain

At least once in their lives, every Muslim is supposed to make a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca. The central event of the hajj is a visit to the Kaaba: Muslims walk en masse counterclockwise around the Kaaba seven times (tawaf). This ritual is supposed to represent the angels walking around the throne of God and allows Muslims to symbolically enter the presence of God. Fifteen days before the Hajj and fifteen days before Ramadan are the only times the Kaaba is opened, and then just to clean it.

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The Kaaba and the Black Stone of Mecca

Photoraph of the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, with the Kaaba to the Right
Photoraph of the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, the Kaaba to the Right Photoraph of the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, with the Kaaba to the Right. Souce: Public Domain

Measuring about 12 inches in diameter, this sacred stone if probably a meteorite, though no scientific tests have ever been done on it. When they walk around the Kaaba, Muslim pilgrims often try to reach out and touch or kiss the Black Stone. Today it is worn and cracked from centuries of pilgrimages and is only held together by a wide silver band. Muslims insist that the Black Stone is not an idol: prayers are directed to God alone.

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The Kaaba, the Multazam, and Nearby Structures

Photograph of the Kaaba, Surrounded by Pilgrims in the Grand Mosque of Mecca
Photograph of the Kaaba, Surrounded by Pilgrims in the Grand Mosque of Mecca Photograph of the Kaaba, Surrounded by Pilgrims in the Grand Mosque of Mecca. Souce: Public Domain

Close to the northwestern side of the Kaaba is a raised and curved exterior wall, about 1.5m high and 17.5m long, called the multazam. At the conclusion of the tawaf, the circumambulation around the Kaaba, Muslims press themselves up against the multazam in order to receive power and blessings associated with the structure. Opposite the Black Stone is the sacred well of Zamzam where pilgrims drink and where Hagar is supposed to have found water for herself and Ismail in the desert.

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The Quran and the Kaaba

Kaaba and the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Photograph in 1917
Kaaba and the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Photograph in 1917 Kaaba and the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Photograph in 1917. Souce: Public Domain

We have rendered the shrine (the Kaaba) a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham’s shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ishmael: “You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate.” ... And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower. (2:125-127)

Lo! (the mountains) As-Safa and Al-Marwah are among the indications of Allah. It is therefore no sin for him who is on pilgrimage to the House (of God) or visiteth it, to go around them (as the pagan custom is). And he who doeth good of his own accord, (for him) lo! Allah is Responsive, Aware. (2:158)

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Cline, Austin. "Kaaba in Mecca: Image Gallery with Photos, Drawings, Illustrations, and Diagrams." ThoughtCo, Jan. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/kaaba-in-mecca-image-gallery-4122937. Cline, Austin. (2017, January 13). Kaaba in Mecca: Image Gallery with Photos, Drawings, Illustrations, and Diagrams. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/kaaba-in-mecca-image-gallery-4122937 Cline, Austin. "Kaaba in Mecca: Image Gallery with Photos, Drawings, Illustrations, and Diagrams." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kaaba-in-mecca-image-gallery-4122937 (accessed January 21, 2018).