Dating back to the early years of Islam, the countless tombstones in Mecca attest to the immense hardships endured by pilgrims. At the same time, they lend a human face to the multitude of devout visitors to the holy site. Most of the tombstones are hewn out of simple, irregular blocks of stone and the inscriptions are fitted to the size and shape of the surface. Although the stonemasons must have worked with simple tools, they succeeded in achieving an astounding range and variety of highly original formats and scripts.More Info
Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, was born in Mecca in 570 CE. At that time, Mecca was a trading center for local goods and the site of the Ka‘ba, an important pagan shrine. Before his death in 632 CE, the Prophet designated Mecca as Islam’s holiest city and the destination of the hajj, a pilgrimage required of all Muslims. In addition to circumambulating the Ka‘ba, pilgrims are to visit several sites in Mecca as part of the hajj: they drink from the Zamzam well, which is said to have miraculously provided water for Hagar and her son Ishmael when they were lost in the desert; they throw stones at three columns to ward off temptations; and they camp at Mount Arafat, believed to be a meeting place of Adam and Eve. For more than 1,400 years, Mecca has served as the religious heart of Islam, bringing together Muslims from all over the world.