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Old Mecca mosques face wrong direction: report

200 Saudi mosques not aligned correctly with holy shrine

Muslim worshippers at about 200 old mosques in Mecca have been praying in the wrong direction for decades because the mosques were not built correctly, a Saudi newspaper reported Sunday.

Muslims around the world are bound to orient their daily prayers towards the Kaaba, and mosques everywhere were supposed to be built facing the black-shrouded cubic building, or have indicators of its direction.

But the Saudi Gazette reported that 200 mosques were not built precisely based on the qibla, the official alignment with the holy Kaaba shrine at the center of Mecca's al-Haram mosque.

The discrepancy was only realized after looking at the old mosques, some built more than 50 years ago, from atop the new skyscrapers under construction in Islam's holiest city in western Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Mecca residents and experts suggested that these mosques put up a correct indicator of the qibla, or orient their prayer rugs exactly in the direction of the Kaaba.

Another suggestion was installing laser beams in the tall minarets of the al-Haram mosque built around the Kaaba to help mosques and worshippers establish the correct qibla direction.

Deputy secretary of the Islamic Affairs Ministry, Tawfik al-Sudairy, downplayed the problem.

"There are no major errors, but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques. In any case, it does not affect the prayers," the newspaper quoted Sudairy as saying.

There are no major errors, but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques

Tawfiq al-Sudairy, Ministry of Islamic Affairs