Mecca (Makkah)

al-Haram Mosque;, al-Masjid al-Haram; Haram al-Sharif; Masjid al-Sharif; Haram; the Holy Mosque
Type of site: Mosque; shrine
Faith: Islam
Dates: 16th century with 20th century expansion
Architecture: Ottoman
Location: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
"We have rendered the shrine 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.'" Quran 2:125
Al-Masjid al-Haram is the holiest mosque in the world and the primary destination of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Ka'ba is a cubical structure located at the center of Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The Baqara verse, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, established the Ka'ba as the direction (qibla) towards which Muslims must address their five daily prayers, and as the destination of annual pilgrimage, or hajj, required once in the lifetime of every Muslim. Each year, worshippers gather in the courtyard of Masjid al-Haram and encircle the Ka'ba seven times (tawaf), during which they kiss and touch the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad), a Muslim object of veneration embedded in the eastern corner of the Ka'ba. As it stands today, the cubical structure is fifteen meters tall and measures ten and a half meters by twelve meters on the exterior. It is oriented such that its four corners align roughly with north, south, east and west. al-Haram Masjid (Holy Mosque), Mecca (Makkah)
The structure predates Islam and is believed to have been first built by the Prophet Abraham and his son Ismail, although there are no archaeological findings to support this argument. It is known, however, that the pre-Islamic Ka'ba was rebuilt several times by the tribes ruling Mecca, who used it to house sacred objects, including the Black Stone. During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, the Quraysh tribe rebuilt the Ka'ba with alternating courses of stone and wood. The inner space was divided into two rooms, one of which housed the Black Stone. The interior walls were decorated with paintings of Abraham, Mary, Jesus, angels, prophets and trees; and the exterior was covered with the habrat cloth from Yemen.

The mosque complex covers an area of 356,800 square meters and can accommodate up to 820,000 worshippers during the Hajj. The Holy Mosque is the only mosque that has no qibla direction, since Muslims pray facing the Ka'ba in the central courtyard.
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