A half-hour's drive inland from Jeddah, brings you to Makkah, the religious capital of Saudi Arabia and the whole Islamic world. The city, like Madinah is off-limits to non-Muslims. Makkah is the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and the point towards which every believer turns five times a day in prayer. It is also the focal point of the Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage which should be undertaken by all Muslims at least once in a lifetime.
The Sacred Mosque, in the center of Makkah, surrounds the Ka'aba, the cubic " House of God" 15 meters tall that is the center of the faith. According to the holy Quran, the first Ka'aba was built by the prophet Abraham (PBUH) and his son Ismail (PBUH) as a place of worship.
Nearby is the footprint of Abraham (PBUH) and the Zamzam water spring, which came out from between the rocks when Ismael's mother was running between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah looking for water for her child. Other holy sites in the vicinity are visited as part of the ritual of the Hajj. Though steeped in tradition, Makkah is nowadays a modern city with facilities to cater for over two million pilgrims every year, at any time.
Care to the Holy Mosque in Makkah and other places, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahad Al Saud has expanded the Holy Mosque. This expansion was the greatest ever done in its history. The expansion area of the built floor reaches up to 57,000m² in addition to 19,000m², which makes the total area of the new expansion 76,000m² and the total area of the Holy Mosque 356,000m² including the expansion and the surrounding prayer grounds. The cost of expansion reached to more than 30 billion Saudi Riyals which equals 11 billion US Dollar.
As the drape or cover (Kiswah) of Ka'aba is one of its main features, special factory was constructed for the purpose of making the Kiswah and started production since 1346 H. The factory is formed of six different sections: belt, hand woven fabric, dying, and auto-woven fabric, printing and inner drape section. Every year, Ka'aba is covered with a new Kiswah. It consumes about 450kg of pure silk and 47 rolls of textile; each is 1344m long and 95cm wide. The Kiswah has a total area of 658 m². The cover belt is 47m long and 95cm wide, formed of 1600 golden pieces knitted on the cover. Verses of the Holy Quran are knitted on the cover with golden and silver wires. The Kiswah is 14 meters in height, and 47 meters in length. Its total cost is estimated at SR 17 million (U.S. $ 4.5 million) including material and labor.