The Kaaba is a very sacred place/thing for the Islamic religion. The Muslims believe it is the most sacred place on earth, and it is where Muhammad, the Islamic prophet was buried. The Kaaba (also referred to as Ka’bah) is a big black box that is roughly 43 feet tall and 36 feet wide. When the Muslims pray, they face towards the Kaaba, or Mecca, the city the Kaaba is located in. Muhammad was the prophet of Islam, and is very important to the Muslims. That is why the Kaaba is so special.
The Hajj is a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. It is something that all Muslims are supposed to do, but some do not have enough money to get a plane ride there. Not taking the Hajj does not make you “less Muslim”, but if the Muslims have enough money, they are very strongly suggested to do so. The Hajj is done on August 30 and ends on September 4. Interestingly, Non-Muslims are not allowed in Mecca. There is also a pilgrimage called Umrah which is less important, does no have a date to do it, and otherwise is almost the same.
There is a stone on the Eastern corner of the Kaaba and is called the black stone. It was known to be a meteorite that fell from the heavens. The Muslims thought it came from heaven to make an altar, like the one it is on right now. It was thought to have fallen in the days of Abraham. It is not small, but we do not know how small. Muslims believe the stone was originally white, but the sins of humans have made it black.
As explained earlier, the Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca. Once you have started the Hajj or the Umrah, you would go to the Kaaba and do the Tawaf. The Tawaf is a ritual where you go around the Kaaba 7 times in a counterclockwise direction; 3 at a quick pace around the outside part of the crowd, and 4 times closer at a casual pace. The Tawaf is meant to represent the unity of all people with one god.
In the Islamic religion, you pray facing Mecca. Almost all Islamic houses have a arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca, because it is sometimes a bit difficult to know the exact direction of Mecca and pray in that direction all the time. Kieran even spotted one in our hotel right now. It had a diameter of about 5cm and had the Kaaba on it. It was neat to see one of these and relate to it.
Below: Arrow pointing to Mecca in our hotel