Flying around Kaaba not allowed, but swimming OK, says Egypt ex-Grand Mufti
The ex-Grand Mufti of Egypt has explained that it is not allowed to fly around the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam, but that swimming is fine.
Ali Gomaa, 70, was referring to "tawaf", the ritual that sees Muslims circumambulate around the Kaaba in Mecca's Great Mosque, typically on foot and most notably during the obligatory Hajj pilgrimage.
Gomaa said during a TV interview that it is required that a Muslim is in contact with "part of the structure of the Kaaba" when performing tawaf, seemingly referring to the area surrounding it.
The Muslim scholar said the ritual would otherwise be invalid, Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Sunday.
While this means worshippers cannot use aircraft to perform tawaf, walking is not the only means of encircling the Kaaba that Gomaa considers acceptable.
He said that swimming or riding around the site is also allowed.
A famous flood in Mecca in 1941 saw a boy aged only 12 swim around the Kaaba in a scene that was immortalised in a photograph taken at the time.
Far longer ago, the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have encircled the Kaaba while riding on a camel.