October 19, 2008

Key to the Kaaba sells for record $18 million::

Anonymous buyer gets only known example to remain in private hands.


A 12 century key to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest site in Islam, has sold for 9.2 million pounds (18.2 million dollars), setting a new record for an Islamic work of art at auction.

The Abbasid period key, made of iron and measuring 37 cm long, sold last Wednesday at Sotheby's in London for more than 18 times its pre-sale estimate and was bought anonymously. It is the only known example to remain in private hands.

The key, one of the ultimate symbols of religious power, is engraved with the words: "This is what was made for the Holy House of God during the time of our lord the Imam son of Imam al-Muqtadi Abu Jaafar al-Mustansir Abu al-Abbas 573."

The Kaaba is the ancient cubic shrine which all Muslims face when they perform their daily prayers, and is located at the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. 

In addition to the key sold at Sotheby's, there are 58 recorded Kaaba keys, all held in museums. Most, 54, are in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, two are in the Nuhad Es-Said Collection, one is in the Louvre in Paris and one is in the Islamic Art Museum in Cairo. 

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