The Kaaba (Arabic: ٱلْـكَـعْـبَـة al-kaʿbah IPA: [alˈkaʕba], “The Cube”), also referred as al-Kaʿbah al-Musharrafah (Arabic: ٱلْـكَـعْـبَـة الْـمُـشَـرًّفَـة, the Holy Ka’bah), is a building at the center of Islam‘s most important mosque, that is Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām (Arabic: ٱلْـمَـسْـجِـد الْـحَـرَام, The Sacred Mosque), in the Hejazicity of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be the Bayṫ Allāh (Arabic: بَـيْـت ٱلله, “House of God”), and has a similar role to the Tabernacle and Holy of Holies in Judaism. Its location determines the qiblah (Arabic: قِـبْـلَـة, direction of prayer). Wherever they are in the world, Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba when performing Ṣalâṫ (Arabic: صَـلَاة, Islamic prayer).
One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim who is able to do so to perform the Hajj (Arabic: حَـجّ, Greater Pilgrimage) at least once in their lifetime. Multiple parts of the hajj require pilgrims to make Tawaf (Arabic: طَـوَاف, Circumambulation) seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction. Tawaf is also performed by pilgrims during the ‘Umrah(Arabic: عُـمْـرَة, Lesser Pilgrimage). However, the most significant time is during the hajj, when millions of pilgrims gather to circle the building within a 5-day period. In 2017, the number of pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform hajj was officially reported as 1,752,014 and 600,108 Saudi Arabian residents bringing the total number of pilgrims to 2,352,122.
The literal meaning of the Arabic word kaʿbah (كَعْبَة) is “cube.” In the Quran, the Kaaba is also mentioned as al-bayt(Arabic: البیت “the house”) and baytī (Arabic: بیتی “my house”) [2:125, 22:26], al-bayt al-ḥarām (Arabic: البیت الحرام “The Sacred House”) [5:97], al-bayt al-‘atīq (Arabic: البیت العتیق “The Ancient House”) [22:29,33], and baytika al-muḥarram (Arabic: بیتك المحرم “your inviolable house”). The mosque surrounding the Kaaba is called al-Masjid al-Haram(“The Sacred Mosque”). According to some reports, in ancient times, the Kaaba was also called Qâdis (Arabic: القادس “holy”) and Nâdhir (Arabic: الناذر “dedicated, consecrated”).
Architecture and interior
The Kaaba is a cuboid stone structure made of granite. It is approximately 13.1 m (43 ft) high (some claim 12.03 m (39.5 ft)), with sides measuring 11.03 m (36.2 ft) by 12.86 m (42.2 ft). Inside the Kaaba, the floor is made of marble and limestone. The interior walls, measuring 13 m (43 ft) by 9 m (30 ft), are clad with tiled, white marble halfway to the roof, with darker trimmings along the floor. The floor of the interior stands about 2.2 m (7.2 ft) above the ground area where tawaf is performed.
The wall directly adjacent to the entrance of the Kaaba has six tablets inlaid with inscriptions, and there are several more tablets along the other walls. Along the top corners of the walls runs a green cloth embroidered with gold Qur’anic verses. Caretakers anoint the marble cladding with the same scented oil used to anoint the Black Stone outside. Three pillars (some erroneously report two) stand inside the Kaaba, with a small altar or table set between one and the other two. (It has been claimed that this table is used for the placement of perfumes or other items.) Lamp-like objects (possible lanterns or crucible censers) hang from the ceiling. The ceiling itself is of a darker colour, similar in hue to the lower trimming. A golden door—the bāb al-tawbah (also romanized as Baabut Taubah, and meaning “Door of Repentance”)—on the right wall (right of the entrance) opens to an enclosed staircase that leads to a hatch, which itself opens to the roof. Both the roof and ceiling (collectively dual-layered) are made of stainless steel-capped teak wood.