This 17th century depiction of Mecca comes from a copy of Muhyî al-Dîn al-Lârî's (d.1526) book which describes both the holy pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina, and also the various rituals undertaken there (Futûh al-haramayn). BNF

A pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Haj, is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.

According to Islamic tradition the mosque is built on the site of Adam's first temple, which is also the place where Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael. It seems later to have been a Nabatean cult centre. The complex centres around the Ka'ba, which is believed to be an asteroid. Originally the area around it was a open area, but in 692 construction of the first formal architectural mosque began - like other early mosques it was based on the design of Mohammed's house-mosque at Medina. The current structure has been repeatedly re-built, but some elements date back to the reconstruction of Selim II in 1570.

Although images of Mohammed himself tended to produced in manuscripts which had relatively limited circulation - and were only ever intended for the elite - Mecca and the Ka'ba were represented on many Ottoman tiles.

The site is under the jurisdiction of the Saudis, and rapidly changing; some of the Ottoman buildings are being destroyed to make way for modern complexes that can accommodate the greater numbers making the Haj thanks to the advent of easier international travel. Whilst that is understandable, it means that we are losing many beautiful historic buildings. Wahhabism in any case discourages preserving anything and likely to be venerated, to prevent idolatry.

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