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Great Mosque-Mecca, SAU
Great Mosque, Mecca – Saudi Arabia
The Great Mosque at Mecca (as it is commonly known) is in the city of Makkah in western Saudi Arabia. In the Islamic faith, it is the holiest site and a required pilgrimage for all Muslims who have the means to get there. Mecca is so important to those who worship Islam that the word ’Mecca’ is now used metaphorically to suggest something that is fundamentally important for any group of peoples. In reality, the Mosque at Mecca that everyone knows is really the ancient Kaaba shrine once used for pagan worship.
Mecca was an important city even before it housed the Great Mosque. It was among the biggest trading cities for Arabian tribes at the time of Muhammad’s birth there circa 570 CE. In the Islamic faith, Muhammad was a prophet invested with the charge of preaching a monotheist religion by the angel Gabriel. He didn’t have much success at first due to the Kaaba shrine’s dominance in preaching varying gods worshipped by Arabs. In 622 CE, he left the city for the city of Yathrib, which is now known as Medina. After almost a decade spent consolidating his support, Muhammad returned to Mecca in 630 CE for good. He entered the city without opposition and removed all idols from the Kaaba Shrine. Since then, the site has been the holiest place in Islam. Each year, approximately 3 million pilgrims flock to the site during the Hajj.
The Kaaba mosque is known as Masjid al Haram. It is a brick building with a large courtyard with the famous ’Black Stone’ at the center. This stone, known as the Hajar el Aswad, is thought to be a meteorite remnant though it is believed that Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ishmael placed it there while building the Kaaba in ancient times. Contrary to popular belief, the stone is not worshipped. Instead, it is simply kissed or touched by pilgrims in honor of Muhammad.
The entire compound is elegantly decorated with black silk with gold lettering. Surrounding the whole Mosque are large walls rising up to 50 feet. When not in Mecca, all Muslims must pray in the direction of the stone.
Unless you are a follower of Islam, it’s unlikely that you will ever get to visit this site in person. Regardless, it is one of the key landmarks of the world that holds the utmost importance to those who follow the Islamic faith.