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New Mecca
Abraj Al-Bait

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.”

Jabal Omar

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.”

Abraj Al-Bait

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
  • Anonymous
  • March 9, 2007 at 1:32:00 PM CST
  • yeah.. that's sad.

    I'm glad you mentioned Las Vegas... that's what I was thinking as I read it and saw those 'pictures.'

  • Anonymous
  • March 9, 2007 at 9:09:00 PM CST
  • The saturation of buildings all crunched into an area is claustrophobic. It's depressing.

  • Anonymous
  • March 14, 2007 at 12:13:00 PM CDT
  • I actually thought that first picture was a photoshop special...Dc.

  • Anonymous
  • March 21, 2007 at 4:40:00 PM CDT
  • You forget that it will create one great shadow upon the qaabah. It can be useful to the pilgrims...

  • Anonymous
  • March 27, 2007 at 8:44:00 AM CDT
  • If someone tried to force this on a religion's holiest ground, it would be a sacrilige decried aroudn the world, but when they do it themsleves? Ha ha! Are we sure Steve Wynn isn't somehow involved in this vatican in stucco.

  • Jenn
  • March 31, 2007 at 10:57:00 AM CDT
  • an entire mountain is being flattened

    So that's the modern answer to the old adage of the mountain coming to Mahammad. Rather takes the poetry out of it.

  • Anonymous
  • April 14, 2007 at 4:51:00 AM CDT
  • This is Muhammad's prophecy fulfilled: "When you see the servant girl giving birth to her mistress, and you see the shepherds [Bedouin Arabs] competing in erecting tall buildings, and the bare footed and destitute becoming the leaders, then this is one of the signs of the Hour.”

  • Anonymous
  • January 17, 2008 at 10:01:00 PM CST
  • Abraj Al-Bait's main tower originally called for a large Big Ben-esque clock. Did that get dropped from the design?

  • Anonymous
  • July 22, 2008 at 8:07:00 AM CDT
  • nice info dude....thanx.....:D

  • Anonymous
  • July 28, 2008 at 7:33:00 AM CDT
  • Reply to Anonymous (March 27, 2007 8:44:00 AM CD):

    Everyone is free to do whatever they want. This isn't against our religion and even hotels there don't serve alcohol.
    If the people of Mecca are happy then I don't see the need of being negative about things.

  • Anonymous
  • July 28, 2008 at 7:41:00 AM CDT
  • I think people are forgetting that Mecca is a functioning city like any other. If the government didn't allow any shopping malls there, they would be criticised heavily by the media and other organisations.

    Gulf people like shopping and having malls is actually handy to keep them away from the heat. Most of people commenting here are probably not allowed to enter mecca so you wouldn't know what it's like being there.

  • Anonymous
  • August 6, 2008 at 11:49:00 AM CDT
  • Allah choose for his house nothing but the best for it

  • Hajar Alwi
  • September 4, 2008 at 4:37:00 AM CDT
  • Honestly, I don't see it as an issue since they are developing it into a commercial centre with hotels and malls for the convenience of the people and the pilgrims. Needless to say, if the people are alright with it and it doesn't cause any damage to anyone, so be it then.

  • Anonymous
  • December 17, 2009 at 10:26:00 PM CST
  • as a student architect, and a student of islam, i see a conflict here and an oppertunity.islam is all for modernity, but not westernism, im pretty confidant that this is all in the interest of the pilgrims and the makkan people.BUT!, To have those looming towers of shopping, luxury, resources, money, promisquous clothe stalls and time wasting shadowing over that of humbleness, prayer, commitment, dignity, self restraint and brotherhood, is like a slap to the face :P

  • Anonymous
  • December 25, 2009 at 5:59:00 PM CST
  • There's a reason why all pilgrims wear white, that is to understand that no one is going to be in a higher status during the judgement day. Now those who are going to stay in those towers, are they going to be able understand the meaning of being a pilgrim or would they be lured by all the luxury that they are offered? Kaabe doesn't belong to Saudi shepherds, what they are doing is going to upset the muslims of the world.
    "When the end of times is near, you shall see the barefoot, naked, indigent (al-`├óla) shepherds compete in building tall structures.”

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