The small painting representing the Kacba – the building in the keyhole-shaped enclosure of the Great Mosque in Mecca housing the black stone covered with an embroidered cloth (kiswa) that is of central importance to the Islamic faith and to any Muslim on pilgrimage to the Holy City – is at the center of a circular crown featuring the names of all the countries and cities correctly oriented around the qibla or “direction of the world”. The Kacba also dominates the area that surrounds it within the enclosure, which includes other important landmarks of the mosque in Mecca, such as an arch-shaped gate (the bab al-salam or Banu Shayba), a large portable minbar (pulpit) on wheels, the smaller, three-stepped minbar from which the prophet Muhammad used to address his audience, and probably the maqam ibrahim (the Station of Abraham), a small domed building that is supposed to contain a large stone bearing the impression of Abraham’s footprints.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Curatorial Assistant in Islamic Art
(Fragment of the Book of Felicity commentary volume)