There was a very interesting article a couple of days ago in The New York Times concerning the current construction boom altering the landscape of Mecca.
In addition to the ongoing projects to improve the city's pilgrimage infrastructure, the article tells us that “an entire mountain is being flattened to make way for a huge hotel and high-rise complex. And elsewhere, cranes dot the skyline with up to 130 new high-rise towers planned for the area.”
Quite a few more cranes are to be found in another multi-billion dollar complex, the Abraj al Bait, under construction just across from the Kaaba. The tallest of its towers, a hotel, is projected to be the seventh highest in the world and will loom high over Islam's holiest site.
Perhaps in keeping with the city's historical status as a major commercial center, a mall recently opened as part of the same development. This mall, we read, is “outfitted with flat-panel monitors with advertisements and announcements, neon lights, an amusement park ride, fast-food restaurants and a lingerie shop.” And Cartier, Tiffany, H&M, Topshop and, of course, Starbucks.
Not surprisingly, some feel that “Mecca is becoming like Las Vegas.”
Quoting the article:
Progress has exacted a heavy price in Mecca. More pilgrims than ever can come here, thanks to billions spent on tunnels and infrastructure to accommodate them. But in exchange, the city’s once famed night market, where pilgrims brought their wares to sell, is gone. The Meccan homes and buildings that filled the area near the mosque were demolished in the 1970s to enlarge the mosque. The neighborhoods and families who lived near the mosque and welcomed pilgrims have long since moved away.
And again (with apologies):
Dr. Ahmed of London has cataloged the destruction of more than 300 separate antiquity sites, including cemeteries and mosques. He says the house where the Prophet Muhammad lived was razed and today a dilapidated library, with its windows and doors shuttered, stands in its place.
Or, to mutilate Clifford Geertz: nothing changes or alters like the unconditionally and unalterably sacred.
Abraj al Bait photos @ SkyscraperPage Forum
Jabal Omar photos @ SkyscraperCity Forum
Reconfiguring the Jamarat Bridge