Old Mecca and the kaaba

Very little is left of the ancient city that is Mecca, and more is making way for modern buildings every year. Mecca used to be like a romantic dream city, full of beautiful elegant buildings.


Far fewer people could make the actual journey to Mecca, so the area around the Kaaba was much smaller.



Flash floods occurred from time to time, about every two years


mecca4 mecca6

The Gold embroidered black cloth, Kiswa, which drapes the Kaaba is renewed every year,


The kiswa used to be made in Egypt,

the departure from Egypt.mecca departure from Egypt

The kiswa on a photo from the early 20th century, in front the crescent shaped wall, the hateem


19 Responses

  1. That is a lot of excellent and beautiful masonry in those photographs.
    True treasures in and of themselves.

    My father was a stonemason by trade, so I tend to appreciate quality masonry work, in particular, such structures of antiquity.

  2. Beautiful!

    I wish they had preserved the old look. Even with expansions, it would have been better to keep to the traditional style of buildings. Its is more attractive and carry more meaning to the spiritual journey that people make to haram.

  3. In other word for Wahhabism is cultural cleansing. The old buildings in the Hejaz region were built centuries before the founding of the Saudi/Wahhabi “cleansing” movement in the middle of the 18 century. They are considered un-Islamic, therefore must be destroyed.

    Jews, Christians and Pagan’s cemeteries were erased from Mecca and Medina despite the fact that land was theirs before Islam was established.

    Al-Khadude (mentioned in the Quran “Eshaab Al-Khadude”) is a historical city built by Queen Sheba in Najran is buried under the sand and of limit to archeologists because the ruling men don’t want to recognize and accept that non-Muslim (Hambali/Wahhabi brand) heritage exist in their kingdom.

    The list is long of non-Saudi heritage destruction all over the country.

  4. Ali, how much is cultural revolution, how much is really the error of implementation of modernization?
    Both are common throughout the world/

    I can’t speak to Al-Khadude, as I don’t recall any city of that particular name. Perhaps a mis-transliteration of the name?
    I’m aware of one city in the empty quarter that is heavily restricted, as is all things in the empty quarter.
    But then, a lot of bodies are quite literally under the sands of the empty quarter, which would be rather inconvenient to be discovered by researchers.

    But, one must consider a few facts. The prophet of Islam was most certainly not Hambali/Wahhabi, he predated such things.
    The Kaaba originated, not as a Muslim building, but a pagan religious edifice. Under the theory of removing all things that were not purely of Islam, should the Kaaba not also be demolished?
    One can understand the destruction of mausoleums, that is not something that is very Islamic in nature. That some buildings were elaborate mausoleums would explain much of that destruction.
    That would qualify as cultural revolution in nature.
    But, ancient homes being destroyed, which were not part of the personalities of early Islam would be more along the lines of erroneous modernization. Erasing ancient history in favor of modern glass and steel. Add in basic commercialism for the Hajj, one can easily understand such demolition.
    Not approve of it, but understand it.

    To be honest, I think it’s a mixture of both.

  5. Even in picture, the Kaaba calls to humans. It calls to me, I hope I might one day see it in real life. I have always been curious how it has become such a part of Islam when it predates the religion and has pagan mysticism about it. I understand Mohammed (PBUH) walked it and kissed it but I see too many who seem to be worshiping it which is wrong. I would like further discussion from those who know.

  6. What I found interesting in the construction of the Kaaba is, the door is elevated sufficiently to avoid those occasional flash floods from flooding inside of it.
    That is evidenced in the one photograph with men sitting on the door sill, with only their toes in the flood water.

    Well, I’m off to clear up some snow.

  7. Wzrd1,
    The Kaaba (one of several ”houses of the gods” in Arabia) was preserved as an empty shell because Mohammed was not able to reach as far as Jeruaem. Mohammed first instructed his followers to pray towards Jerusalem, when he realized he would not be able to overtake Jerusalem he changed his mind and the direction, and instructed his followers to pray towards Mecca, which had been an important religious sites for many ages. He had all the god statues thrown out (very insensitive towards other people’s religions) and it was now the house of Allah. He send out men to destroy all other kaaba’s in his reach.
    Destruction and oblitrating other people’s cultural and religious sites has been a part of Islam from the very beginning.

    The Ottomans (also muslims) protected and cared for the historic, cultural and religious sites when they were in power. It is the hanbali/wahhabi sect of Islam which wants to destroy every trace of other, or earlier, or their own history, art and culture. In the 1920’s they completely destroyed not only other religions sites and graveyards in Mecca and Medina, but also the Muslims graveyards, which contained the tombs of Mohammed and his followers, and his family. Over the decades they have destroyed not only ancient churches but the early mosques, the houses related to Eve, Mohammed, Mohammed’s family the list is pretty large.

    And worse, the Islamic barbarians now go around the globe and destroy the cultural heritage of the world, the buddah’s of Bamiyam are a famous example, but they destroy Muslim sites as well, Sufi tombs and mosques are destroyed in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia is providing ”help” in Bosnia, they ”restore” mosques and Islamic cultural sites by bulldozing them down, destroying graveyards and tombs, and building ugly ”Islamically correct” concrete mosques instead. They rip off and destroy ancient Ottoman tilework, they destroy wall paintings, everything they can reach.

    It is disgusting and it breaks my heart, I love Islamic architecture, tilework and art.
    In future times Saudi Arabia and it’s brand of Islam will be denounced as a horde of barbarian a-cultural criminals. Stupid, primitive hogs with religiously stunted tiny inferior brains unable to esteem art and culture and therefore destroying the worlds heritage wherever they could reach.

  8. Wzrd said…

    “The Kaaba originated, not as a Muslim building, but a pagan religious edifice. Under the theory of removing all things that were not purely of Islam, should the Kaaba not also be demolished?”

    I often think about how one is not to ‘worship or otherwise’ idols or statues or what have you in Islam and this certainly belongs to one of those categories. Contradictions abound.

  9. Aafke, in other words, the current regime in Saudi will join the Roman Catholic church in reputation for the destruction of faiths and architecture of displaced faiths.
    Still, I’d not insult the hog by associating it with a species of Chimpanzee, the Chumpanzee. ?

    A house related to Eve? I’ve not heard of such a place.
    Indeed, the legends I’m familiar with say that Eve and Adam lie in the “Cave of Secrets”.

    On a quite serious note, I mention cultural revolution and modernization for a reason. Both are causes for the destruction of structures of antiquity.
    But, I do completely agree with you in regards to the future. Just as we currently regard so many of the various cultural revolutions as simply revolting displays of the destruction of antiquities and cultures overall.

    As for graves and memorials, I’ve never really comprehended such things. Once one is dead, one’s body is empty and will and should decay.
    My oft made joke, made in semi-seriousness is, I don’t want a fancy grave, grave marker or anything similar. I’d be content to be converted to fertilizer for a patch of plants along a forest path, with a dedication sign at the far end:
    “You have just walked through the Wizard One memorial poison ivy patch.”
    The actual plant is purely optional. ?
    Though, I’m sure that the wildlife would love some nice berry bushes.:)

  10. Wendy, thanks for picking that up. I was hoping that would be mentioned.
    Name one, just one would suffice, religion that does not have contradictions up to its figurative eyebrows?

    Don’t forget, I’m a deist. I believe in a creator, that triggered the big bang. I don’t believe that any such creator was so unbelievably competent as to balance all of the forces of nature as to make an operational universe, but was so incomprehensibly inept as to have to micromanage the affairs of a single species on a tiny planet in a backwater star system in a middle rate galaxy.
    That’s just insulting to such a being.

  11. Actually I’ve never read anything that indicates Muhammad was heading to Jerusalem and changed his mind. It certainly isn’t part of the faith, or history as anyone here has heard. If anyone has a source for that I would find it interesting.

    Muslims do not believe the Kaaba was pagen in origin. They believe their was an initial structure on site built by Adam. And later when Hajar went to the desert with Ishmael they arrived at the site of Mecca-. Many of the Haj rituals have to do with her arrival and struggle to survive. Abraham and his sons rebuilt the Kaaba. So when they later cleared it out- they were restoring it to its monotheistic purpose.

    SInce Eve was brought up- according to local Jeddah tradition- Jeddah which means “Grandmother” is named for the Grandmother of us all. And they believe she is buried in the Eve Graveyard in the old city.

  12. Sandy is right, it was the grave of Eve, there used to be a small structure in Jeddah which they thought was the grave of Eve.

    There is (or was) actual proof of a change of direction, at the mosque of the two Qibla’s, two mihrabs, the older one pointing to Jerusalem, the later one pointing to Mecca. In recent ”restauration”, the older mihrab pointing to jerusalem was removed of course.

    Sahi Bukhari:
    Narrated Ibn Umar:

    While some people were offering Fajr prayer at Quba’ (mosque), some-one came to them and said, “Tonight some Qur’anic Verses have been revealed to the Prophet and he has been ordered to face the Ka’ba (at Mecca) (during prayers), so you too should turn your faces towards it.” At that time their faces were towards Sham (Jerusalem) so they turned towards the Ka’ba (at Mecca).

  13. I know there was the direction change- but I’ve never heard he intended Jerusalem to be the focal point permanently
    . The Kaaba makes more sense as it was his heritage and monotheistic traditions went way back there.

    The Eve graveyard is still in use. They don’t mark the graves at all so you can’t tell where she is supposed to be. Women don’t go to graveyards generally- but a friend and I went once. We just marched in and took a look around- I greeted the guard and kept walking. Amazing what you can do if you just do it. There isn’t a lot of local interest in the sight. Westerners are much more interested in the story in my experience.

  14. Wizrd, well, the Taj Mahal is a memorial, a grave for a loved one. You think that it doesn’t matter if that is blown up? Btw, I bet they would love to blow it up.

  15. Aafke, have you seen the neighborhood around the Taj Mahal?
    Given the choice of blowing up the Taj Mahal along with improving the neighborhood and leaving the Taj Mahal alone and leaving the neighborhood alone, I’d blow it up.
    I’d have nightmares over it, but it’d do the local populace good.

    Of course, here, in the real world, such choices don’t happen.
    Instead, we get idiots destroying lovely architecture.
    I’m not accepting such practices, only mentioning the effects of a cultural revolution that are quite well documented. What a cultural revolution typically really is is the destruction of a culture that was different from the conquering culture.
    That does not make it right, it merely is a known practice that is quite an old practice. That it is a stupid and wasteful practice is a given.

    You do have to admit, I am an expert in stupid and wasteful. I was born and raised in the US, the world renowned experts in stupid and wasteful practices. ?

  16. I really enjoyed the pictures. There are some videos on youtube of the inside of the Kaaba and what was interesting to me was that one of the plates on the wall was missing (and was almost deliberately passed over in the video). Why would someone take down one but leave the others? Was it damaged and/or missing to begin with, was it stolen, or deliberately taken down? I, for one, would like to know what was written on it.

    Also, according to wikipedia, the curtain that covers it supposedly costs around 17,000,000SAR (4.5 million USD) per year (as it is remade every year). (Another source said it cost 17,000,000USD, so I am not sure which is true.) Why cover it at all? It’s an historical and religious site. Surely it is meant to be seen as it is?

    In past times, from what I read today, it had two doors and a window; now it only has one door. Anyways, just thought this was all interesting.:)

  17. The sources I’ve found said the 17 million SAR.
    The Kaaba was covered from before Islam began, it was apparently decided to continue decorating it with the cloth since the Kaaba came under Islamic control (for a lack of a better way of saying it quickly).

    As to the original structure, it’s been rebuilt several times that I’ve heard of, the last time being in 1629.
    Wikipedia actually has a rather good write-up on it.

  18. The cloth also used to be in different colors early on, like white and green. And there were 12 (?) pillars inside but now only three. And of course before Islam 356 gods, one for every day, and every tribe had some gods in there.

  19. The Ka’aba was the original direction of prayer from the time of Ibrahim (as) who built it with his son Ismail (as). It was originally built by the one who submitted totally to his Creator. So it was the original Qiblah. The proof of this is clearly in the Quran. “Indeed, the first House (of worship) appointed for mankind is the one at Bakkah: full of blessing and a guidance for all mankind”.(3:96)

    There is narration which states that Musa (as) and other prophets performed Hajj at Makkah.

    So the Ka’aba was not a pagan structure to start with. The pagan influence came later. The original Qiblah was the Ka’aba. In Makkah, the Prophet (saas) and his companions used to face this structure even after revelations came. When the Prophet (saas) and his companions migrated to Madinah, they faced Jerusalem as the Jews used to do that in that city and facing Ka’aba would be offensive to them there. At that time there was no special direction for prayers. Prophet (saas) faced Jerusalem for prayers for 17 months before it was revealed to him to face the original Qiblah at Makkah.

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