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Evolution Of The Masjid Al-Haram

Chronicles
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In pictures: How the Great Mosque of Mecca has evolved over 300 years.

The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca where Muslims from around the world would converge at the centre of Islam's most sacred mosque, the Masjid al-Haram. Muslims would observe the pilgrimage by practicing the tawaf - the circling of the Kaaba - and praying at Mount Arafat. The end of the Hajj pilgrimage is marked with a celebration known as Eid Adha or Aidiladha, where livestock like cattle and lamb are sacrificed. Then, the meat is distributed to the community, especially to the needy.

Over the years, since the time of Caliph Umar, the second caliph, the area around the Kaaba has been expanded to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. The third caliph, Caliph Uthman, built colonnades around the Kaaba and from there the mosque enclosing it was renovated, until it became the modern marvel that it is today.

At full capacity, the Great Mosque is a breathtaking sight - millions filling up the mosque’s compound and its surroundings, a congregation moving in faith and reverence. The mosque itself is quite majestic - during the day, its white stone floors, marble arches and domes glimmer in sunlight; at night, its lights illuminate the minarets that stand guard at each gate. A little further away, the Abraj Al-Bait towers over it like a lighthouse looking out.

Looking Back In Time

In conjunction with Eid Adha this year, take a look at this short photo trail of the magnificent building, depicting its evolution through time with highlights on some major moments in the last 100 years.

1718
A view of the Kaaba in 1718, engraved by Adriaan Reland (Photo: Public domain)
A view of the Kaaba in 1718, engraved by Adriaan Reland (Photo: Public domain)
19th Century
A vintage engraving of the Kaaba in the 19th century.
A vintage engraving of the Kaaba in the 19th century.
1845
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Muhammad ‘Abdallah, whose grandfather, Mazar ‘Ali Khan was court painter to the Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah II, was commissioned by the Sharif of Mecca to depict the sacred monuments of his realm in the second quarter of the 19th century. It is the earliest known accurate eyewitness record of the city. (Photo: Creative Commons from the Khalili Collection, London 2010)
1880
A picture of the Kaaba taken in 1880. (Photo: Public domain)
A picture of the Kaaba taken in 1880. (Photo: Public domain)
1910
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A 1910 photo of the Ottoman era Masjid al-Haram, highlighting the complex surrounding the Kaaba that was built during the renovation under the reign of Sultan Murad IV that remained unaltered for nearly three decades until the Saudis took over.(Photo: The Matson Collection/Public domain)
The 1950s
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An old photo taken sometime between 1950 to 1960 showing the crowded Masjid al-Haram. (Photo: Bismika Allahuma/Flickr/Creative Commons)
Terrorist attack in 1979
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In 1979, 200 armed civilians seized the Grand Mosque, calling for the overthrow of the House of Saud. The siege lasted 2 weeks, with hundreds of casualties.(Photo: Public domain)
The Masjid al-Haram In Modern Times

During more recent times, the Saudi Arabia government has extended the Masjid al-Haram to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. In 2019, 2.5 million pilgrims performed the Hajj. The photos below show the gradual changes that have been done until how it is like today.

2006
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Pictures of Mecca’s Grand Mosque from a helicopter taken in 2006. Dozens of cranes and metal scaffolding surround the historic city as Saudi Arabia aimed to increase hotel space and improve facilities to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage safer and easier.
2016
A stunning aerial shot of the Masjid al-Haram showing it in its entirety, illuminated at night.
A stunning aerial shot of the Masjid al-Haram showing it in its entirety, illuminated at night.
2018
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The 601-metre Abraj Al Bait Clock Tower overlooks the Grand Mosque, photo taken in 2018.
2020
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A full aerial view of the Masjid al-Haram taken in April 2020 showing the extensive change that has happen over 300 years.

The world’s largest mosque never sleeps. At all hours of the day and night, pilgrims and visitors can be seen circling the Kaaba and praying while some rest in the tranquility that the Great Mosque affords. The Kaaba and Masjid al-Haram is a historical, cultural and spiritual landmark; a symbol of faith, perseverance and hope that should be preserved and protected not just for Muslims but also for mankind.

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