The Kaaba (Arabic: الكعبة al-Kaʿbah IPA: [alˈkaʕba], “The Cube”) also referred as Al Kaaba Al Musharrafah (The Holy Kaaba), is a building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca, al-Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered the “House of Allah” and has a similar role to the Tabernacle and Holy of Holies in Judaism. Wherever they are in the world, Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba when performing salat (prayer). From any point in the world, the direction facing the Kaaba is called the qibla.
The sanctuary around the Kaaba is called Al-Masjid al-Haram (Sacred Mosque).
One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim who is able to do so to perform the hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Multiple parts of the hajj require pilgrims to make tawaf, the circumambulation seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction. Tawaf is also performed by pilgrims during the umrah (lesser pilgrimage). However, the most interesting times are during the hajj, when millions of pilgrims gather to circle the building within a 5-day period. In 2013, the number of pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform hajj was officially reported as 1,379,531. In 2014, Saudi Arabia reported having completed Hajj permits for 1,389,053 international pilgrims and 63,375 for residents.
The building is called by many names in the Quran and Hadith, such as Bait (House), Bait ul Haram (Sacred House), Bait Ullah (House of Allah), Bait al-Ateeq (Ancient House), and Awal ul Bait (First House). The Arabic word Bait is cognate to the Hebrew Beit as used in for example Beit HaMikdash (Holy House) and Beit El/Bethel (House of God). The Arabic word Kaaba means square or cube. The Quran also mentions Bait al-Ma’mur,[Quran 52:4] the House of God in Heavens which the Kaaba symbolizes, where according to Hadith the Angels perform Tawaf and Prayers.