Around 1685 - Joseph Pitts from Exeter, enslaved in Algiers
In the Kaaba
This Beat-Allah [House of God] is opened but two days in the space of six weeks, viz. in day for the men and the next day for the women. As I was at Mecca about four months, I had the opportunity of entering into it twice; a reputed advantage, which many thousands of the Hagges have not met with. For those that come by land make no longer stay at Mecca than sixteen or seventeen days.
When any enter into the Beat, all that they have to do is to perform two erkaets on each side, with the holding up their two hands, and petitioning at the conclusion of each two erkaets [prayers]. And they are so very reverent and devout, in doing this, that they will not suffer their eyes to wander, and gaze about; for they account it very sinful so to do. Nay, they say, that one was smitten blind for gazing about when in the Beat, as the reward of his vain, and unlawful curiosity. I could not, for my part, give any credit to this story, but looked on it as a legendary relation, and therefore was resolved, if I could, to take my view of it; I mean, not to continue gazing about it, but now and then to cast an observing eye. And, I profess, I found nothing worth seeing in it, only two wooden Pillars in the midst, to keep up the roof, and a bar of iron fastened to them, on which hanged three or four silver lamps, which are, I suppose, but seldom, if ever, lighted. In one corner of the Beat is an iron, or brass chain, I cannot tell which, (for I made no use of it) the pilgrims just clap it about their necks, in token of repentance. The floor of the Beat is marble, and so is the inside of the walls, on which there is written something in Araback which I had no time to read. The walls, tho’ of marbel on the inside, are hung all over with silk, which is pulled off before the Hagges enter. Those that go into the Beat tarry there but a very little while, because others wait for the same privilege; and while some go in, others are going out. After all is over, and all that will have done this, the Sultan of Mecca, who is Shirreef, i.e. one of the race of Mahomet, accounts himself not too good to cleanse the Beat; and therefore with some of his favourites does wash and cleanse it. And first of all, they wash it with the holy water Zem Zem, and after that with sweet water. The stairs which were brought to enter in at the door of the Beat being removed, the people crowd under the door, to receive on them the sweepings of the said water. And the besoms, wherewith the Beat is cleansed, are broken in pieces, and thrown out amongst the mob; and he that gets a small stick or twig of it keeps it as a sacred relique.
A faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans…
London 1738; reprint 1971