Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who signed a key political deal in Mecca, prays in front of the black stone at the Kaaba in the city's Grand Mosque
Originally uploaded by johnhanscom
"The Primordial House", or "The Sacred House", is a large cuboidal building located inside the mosque known as al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The mosque was built around the original Kaaba.
The Kaaba is the holiest place in Islam. The qibla, the direction Muslims face during prayer, is the direction from their location on Earth towards the Kaaba. It is around the Kaaba that ritual circumambulation is performed by Muslims during the Hajj (pilgrimage) season as well as during the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage).
A significant feature of the Kaaba is the Black Stone, also called al-Hajar-ul-Aswad, which is believed by some Muslims to date back to the time of Adam and Eve. It is about 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter, is located on the Eastern corner of the Kaaba, and is surrounded by a silver frame. When Muslims come to Mecca to perform the Hajj, one of the tasks which they try to accomplish is to kiss the Black Stone, as Muhammad once kissed it. Because of the large crowds this is not always possible, and so as pilgrims walk around the Kaaba, they are to point to the Black Stone on each circuit.
Tradition has it that when the Black Stone on the corner of the shrine came to earth, it was white. It turned black under the burden of millions of sins.