Can't go to Mecca? Saudi Arabia brings hajj to the metaverse with 'VR Black Stone' experience

Can't go to Mecca? Saudi Arabia brings hajj to the metaverse with 'VR Black Stone' experience
2 min read
14 December, 2021
The Hajar Aswad, or Black Stone, is laid into one corner of the Kaaba, located in Mecca's Great Mosque, the holiest site in Islam.
The Virtual Black Stone Initiative digitises a religiously significant rock at the Kaaba [AFP/Getty]

Saudi Arabia has brought Islam's holiest site into the metaverse age with a new initiative on Monday that allows Muslims to virtually view a religiously revered rock in Mecca from their homes.

The Hajr Aswad, or Black Stone, is laid into one corner of the Kaaba, located in Mecca's Great Mosque, the holiest site in Islam.

The "Virtual Black Stone Initiative" allows Muslims to "experience the Hajr Aswad virtually prior to the pilgrimage to Makkah [Mecca]", according to the official Haramain Facebook account.

The Haramain - translating as "the two sanctuaries" - refers to Mecca and Medina and specifically the two holy mosques there.

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The general president of the mosques, Abdul-Rahman Al-Sudais, whose department is separate from but collaborates with the Haramain organisation, inaugurated the programme on Monday, according to his office's website.

The initiative is a project of the Exhibitions and Museums Affairs Agency, working with Umm Al-Qura University.

While inaugurating the programme, Al-Sudais said it was crucial to have a simulation that engages not only sight and hearing but also touch and smell.

The general president said the Mecca and Medina mosques contain much historic and Islamic heritage, adding that this should be digitised for everyone.

Several other university and government officials were present at the opening event. These include Turki bin Suleiman Al-Amro, who is head of the institute at Umm Al-Qura University that was involved in creating the Virtual Black Stone project.

It was not immediately clear how and when the public will have access to virtual reality technology.