Mecca with Kaaba

Mecca, the Prophet Mohammed’s city of birth in western Saudi Arabia, is the holiest place of Islam, and every year Muslims make their pilgrimage to the city. The University Library has an early and rare view of Mecca and its most important shrine Ka’ba.

The large oil painting (87 x 112 cm) was probably painted in the early 18th century on location in the area. The city and its close surroundings are shown from a bird’s eye perspective. In the centre is the Ka’ba shrine and around it, the city with the similar-looking white houses spreads out. At the city border, a mountainous landscape takes over, with a number of small villages and mosques. Most of the buildings have a commentary on the picture, written in red in Arabic.

Ka’ba (Arabic, meaning cube) is a stone building located in the centre of the holy mosque. The building is clad in white marble, but covered by black cloth. Among the rituals included in the pilgrimage to Mecca is that the pilgrims shall circle the Ka’ba seven times anti-clockwise. The picture of Mecca with Ka’ba is considered to have been painted to hang by the mosque, and give the pilgrims an opportunity to get an overview of the shrine. 

The picture, which was donated to Uppsala University Library already in 1717, was part of the estate of Professor Michael Eneman (1676–1714). The young priest Eneman accompanied Karl XII and the Swedish army to Bender in 1709. The same year, he was given a position as preacher to the Swedish legation in Constantinople.

At the King’s expense, Michael Eneman made a journey through Asia Minor, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Cyprus during the years 1711–1713. During his journey, Eneman was appointed Professor of Oriental Languages at Uppsala. He returned to Sweden in 1714 and was installed in his position, but died shortly thereafter.

Read more about the Picture Collection