Kaaba or Caaba (both: käˈbə or käˈəbə) [key] [Arab., = cube], the central, cubic, stone structure, covered by a black cloth, within the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The sacred nature of the site predates Islam: tradition says that the Kaaba was built by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham and the descendants of Noah. Also known as the House of God, it is the center of the circumambulations performed during the hajj, and it is toward the Kaaba that Muslims face in their prayers (see liturgy, Islamic). Pre-Islamic Meccans used it as a central shrine housing their many idols, most notable of which were al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat, collectively known as al-Gharaniq or the Daughters of God, and Hubal, a martial deity. The Black Stone, possibly of meteoric origin, is located at one of its outside corners. Also dating from pre-Islamic times as a heavenly relic, this stone is venerated and ritually kissed. Worn hollow by the centuries of veneration, the stone is held together by a wide silver band. The actual structure of the Kaaba has been demolished and rebuilt several times in the course of its history. Around the Kaaba is a restricted area, haram, extending in some directions as far as 12 mi (19 km), into which only Muslims may enter.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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