Verifying the Mecca orientation of the giant crescent

Takes literally two minutes. Just use the Mecca direction calculator at to print out the following graphic of the direction to Mecca from Somerset PA (ten miles from the crash site):

Qibla for Somerset PA,Islam.com60%

The Muslim prayer direction (towards Mecca)  is called "qibla" in Arabic. (Click picture for larger image.) If is not working, there is another Mecca-direction calculator at

Place this Mecca-direction printout over the Crescent of Embrace site-plan on your computer screen (both have north at the top) and this is what you will see (red orientation lines added):


A person standing between the most protruding tips of the crescent structure and facing into the center of the crescent (red arrow), will be facing almost exactly in the “qibla” direction.. (Click picture for larger image.)

To be precise, the crescent points 1.8° north of Mecca, ±  0.1° (calculations at bottom).

(The site-plan link above is to my copy of the site-plan, downloaded from the Memorial Project website in September 2005. All of the design graphics are also available directly from the horse's mouth. Just call the Park Service at 814 443-4557 and ask for a password to the Memorial Project archives.)


The meaning of a Mecca-oriented crescent

A crescent that Muslims face into to face Mecca is called a mihrab, and is the central feature around which every mosque is built. Some mihrabs are pointed arch shaped, but the archetypical mihrab is crescent shaped. It has to be intentional to be a proper mihrab, and architect Paul Murdoch provides endless proof of intent, achieved by meticulous repetition of his elaborate multi-Mecca oriented geometries. (Short animation below. Full video expose here.)

The planned memorial will be the world's largest mosque, by a factor of about a hundred.


If you are not clear about the endpoints of the crescent

It may be a little hard to tell from the overhead view why the endpoints of the Crescent of Embrace are chosen as the end of the Entry Portal Wall at the top and the last red maple on the bottom. This becomes obvious in the elevation and perspective views, where the heights are visible. The Entry Portal wall is a gigantic masonry construct, fifty feet tall and a thousand feet long, making for a very obvious upper crescent tip:


Similarly for for the lower crescent tip. The crescent was described from the beginning as a crescent of red maple trees, so the last red maple marks the end of the crescent. The resulting crescent is consistently fifty or sixty feet all around its entire arc (the height of both the Entry Portal Wall and the red maples). This verticality ends with the last red maple on the bottom. The only construct that extends out beyond the last red maple on the bottom is a paved walkway.


The press and the Memorial Project have known about the Mecca orientation for years

In September 2005, almost immediately after the Crescent of Embrace was unveiled as the winning design for the Flight 93 memorial, a half dozen bloggers, myself included, independently verified that the giant crescent points almost exactly to Mecca. All of us posted our methods and our findings online for anyone else to replicate. The simplest proof, used in the demonstration above, was posted by Sarah Wells on her Blumerle blog. Sarah is the one who found the Mecca-direction calculator at This way of finding the direction to Mecca is especially handy because it at the same time verifies that the method used -- the "great circle" or "shortest distance" method -- is the method Muslims use to calculate the direction to Mecca.

Such an explosive and easily verifiable fact should have been front page news across the country the moment it was discovered. Two and a half years later, only a handful of people know about the Mecca oriented crescent. Why? Because the Memorial Project and the press are both working desperately to keep this information suppressed.

In 2006, I learned from Post Gazette reporter Paula Ward that reporters editors at the Post Gazette had found all of the different posts on the Mecca orientation of the newly unveiled Crescent of Embrace.  She said that they had a special meeting on the subject where the editors decided not to publish this explosive information. “We decided that because the world is round, it didn’t make any difference,” said Paula: “you can go any direction to get to Mecca.” (Crescent of Betrayal, download 3, p. 108.)

At the same time that they were suppressing explosive evidence that the crescent design is not innocent, the Gazzeditors were depicting critics of the crescent as paranoid: "... like those who look at innocent kids trick-or-treating at Halloween and see only the devil's work, a few small and suspicious minds couldn't look past the crescent to see a remarkably sensitive design.

The Memorial Project did the same thing. In an April 2006 conference call, Memorial Project Supervisor Joanne Hanley told me why she was not concerned about the Mecca orientation of the giant crescent: "It isn't exact," she told me. "That's one we talked about. It has to be exact." (Our other interlocutor was Project Manager Jeff Reinbold. Crescent of Betrayal, download 3, p. 145 ).

This is what the defenders of the crescent do in private conversation. They acknowledge that our Mecca orientation claim is accurate--that the crescent does point almost exactly at Mecca--and they make excuses for it. But this isn't what they tell the public. Asked by the Post Gazette specifically about the Mecca orientation claim, Superintendent Hanley denied it, insisting that: "The only thing that orients the memorial is the crash site."

Patrick White, Vice President of Families of Flight 93, did the same thing. At the July 2007 public meeting of the Memorial Project, he was asked by one of my compatriots how he could be okay with the Mecca oriented crescent. He argued that the Mecca orientation cannot be seen as a tribute to Islam because the inexactness of it would be "disrespectful to Islam." That same week he told the press that ALL of my claims about the crescent design are untrue and "preposterous."

The Memorial Project even found a phony academic from the University of Texas named Daniel Griffith to deny that there is any such thing as the direction to Mecca.

Daniel Griffith, a geospatial information sciences professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said anything can point toward Mecca, because the earth is round.

One billion Muslims certainly disagree. And no, Post Gazette reporter Paula Ward was not misquoting Griffith to back the Post Gazette's own "no such thing as the direction to Mecca" excuse. I talked to reporter Kirk Swauger from the Johnstown Tribune Democrat, and he told me that Griffith had said the same thing to him. "He said you can face anywhere to face Mecca," Swauger told me over the phone.


Proof of intent

Architect Paul Murdoch proves intent by exactly repeating the almost-exact Mecca orientation of the central crescent in the crescents of trees that surround the Tower of Voices part of the memorial. Refresh page to restart animation (2 minutes long):

Repeated Mecca orientations, animation medium


By the numbers: mathematical calculation of the direction to Mecca and the orientation of the crescent

Most Muslims calculate the direction to Mecca by the great-circle or shortest-distance method. A variety of great-circle calculators are available online. The Kansas City Amateur Television Group has one posted here.

Visiting the Flight 93 crash-site with Google Earth shows the coordinates of the point of impact to be 40:03:07N by 78:54:17W.  A Google Earth visit to Mecca shows coordinates of 21:25:48N by 39:49:12E. Punching these numbers into the KCATV calculator, the direction to Mecca from the crash-site comes up as 55.19 degrees (measured clockwise from north).

Screen-shot of great-circle calculator. Different calculators use different assumptions about the shape of the Earth, but they all yield directions to Mecca from the crash site that are within a tenth of a degree of 55.2. 

Screen-shots of graphics
To take a screenshot of a graphic on a Windows PC, press “alt” + “print screen” at the same time. A screen-shot of your top window is now on your clip-board and can be pasted into a graphics program.

Arctangent calculations
For those who graphics programs do not calculate polar coordinates, the arctangent function provides a simple way to convert rise and run in pixels into slope in degrees. (Plain-Jane Microsoft Paint has pixel counters at the lower right of the screen.)

For any right triangle, the tangent function of an acute angle A is defined as the ratio of the side opposite A to the side adjacent to A. Tangent (A) = (a/b). 

Applying the arctangent function to both sides of this equation leaves the equality intact:

Arctangent (tangent(A)) = arctangent (a/b).

The arctangent function is the inverse of the tangent function, so applying both functions to A just leaves A. That means:

A = arctangent (a/b),  which is just what we need. Microsoft paint allows us to measure a and b in pixels, and we want to know the implied angle A.

To translate into degrees from north, subtract A from 90.

If you copy the crescent-bisector graphic above and paste it into Microsoft Paint, you can use Paint's pixel counting tool (activates with line tool) to find that the bisector has a run of about 277 pixels and a rise of about 206 pixels. Arctangent (206/277) = 36.64. Subtract from 90 to get degrees clockwise from north of 53.3 (which is 1.83º north of the exact Mecca direction of 55.19º clockwise from north).


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Crescent of Betrayal, home page

Free download of Crescent of Betrayal, the Director's Cut.