Monday, August 20, 2007

$13 billion Construction boom in Makkah

Transforming Islam's Holiest Site



MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia — Five times a day across the globe devout Muslims face this city in prayer, focused on a site where they believe Abraham built a mosque of God. This beautiful mosque is also the place Muslims cherish to visit alteast once their lives – a place they regard as the home of God.


A huge project is under way near the Kaa’ba, in the Grand Mosque, altering the skyline at Islam's holiest site. The Abraj al Bait Mall will bring an amusement park ride, fast food and convenient clothing stores to the neighborhood.

Now as they make the pilgrimage clothed in simple white cotton wraps, they will see something other than the startling Kaa’ba, which gravitates the Muslim world to a single spot unifying their differences. They will see something other than the stark black cube known as the Kaa’ba, which is literally the center of the Muslim world. They will also see lots of clothing stores. “Makkah will have all my favourite clothing stores and I wont have to haul them all the way from Jordan”. Pilgrims will have easy access to fast foods, coffee shops, soft drink shops that will bring more convenience to the pilgrims where the temperature rises to 110 F during the summer.

The Abraj al Bait Mall — one of the largest in Saudi Arabia, outfitted with flat-panel monitors with advertisements and announcements, neon lights, an amusement park ride, fast-food restaurants— has been built conveniently close from Islam's holiest site making the pilgrimage easier to the older devotees which make up atleast 45% of the visitors. A new hospital will be able to accommodate pilgrims who fall sick or who need medicines. This will change the way pilgrims with high blood pressure and diabetic pilgrims go for Hajj or Umrah.

Pilgrims are happy at the progress buts some of would like to keep the traditional old ancient part of the Makkah alive.

"Mecca is becoming like a modern city, it will benefit Muslims and create more jobs and will have a ripple effect all over the Muslim world," said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, a Saudi Charity research organization. "It will have a great effect on Muslims as going to Makkah will give them a great feeling of progress and modernization. This will be a added charm. It will give Makkah a clean crisp look and validate the Sunnah about Cleanliness."

The mall, which opened a week before the annual pilgrimage, called the hajj, in December, is the first phase in a $13 billion construction boom in Mecca that promises to change how this city. Muslims are the only ones allowed into Makkah because of group of Western hooligans who showed disrespect to the holy sites.

The Abraj al Bait housing and hotel complex, a 1.5-million-square-yard development that will include a towering hotel, will change parts of this ancient city but add a beautiful clean new look.

When the project is completed in 2009, it will include the seventh tallest building in the world, its developers say, with a hospital, hotels and prayer halls. A public-announcement system pipes in prayers from the Grand Mosque across the way, and worshipers can join the masses simply by opening their draperies benefiting the old, sick and the handicapped.

In nearby Jabal Omar, they are making way to accommodate the next generation of Muslims. Muslims who are modern, progressive, educated and would want to feel proud of their holiest city. To make them proud and bring them back to the holy city there are cranes which dot the skyline with up to 130 new high-rise towers planned for the area. They is for - the next generation of Pilgrims !

"This is the end of Mecca and this will represent the new city – Makkah and not twisted spelling with pun - Mecca
," said Dr. Irfan Ahmed in London. He has formed the Islamic Heritage Foundation to try to preserve the Islamic history of Makkah, Medina, the second holiest city, and other important religious sites in Saudi Arabia. "Before, even in the days of the Ottomans, none of the buildings in Makkah were built to accommodate millions of new pilgrims. Its was about time.

Modernization of this neglected ancient city is certainly one of the motivators in the building boom. Every year, up to four million people descend on this city during the pilgrimage, while a stream continues to flow through here during the year, spending an average $2,000 to $3,000 to stay, eat and shop.

Vistors to Makkah remind investors of buying and living in a nest close to their beloved holy site.
Arab satellite television channels remind viewers that " finally you too, can have the opportunity to enjoy this blessed view” – which only a few could afford.

Muhammad al-Abboud, a real estate agent, recounts tales of Pakistani businessmen investing $15 million to buy several apartments at a time for his parents, renting and for Asaal –o- sawab.

A three-bedroom apartment here runs about $3 million, Mr. Abboud said. One directly overlooking the Grand Mosque can reach $5 million a view every Muslim would cherish.


After the development of these new communities the old, sick and the handicapped worshipers can separate themselves from the crowds, without violating the spirit of the hajj, where all stand equal before God.

"All of Makkah is a sanctuary," Mr. Abboud said. " this was needed because hundreds of pilgrims die because of the heat and it is difficult for the old to keep pace with the young and enthusiastic pilgrims. But some groups say the building boom also has religious motives. They praise the planners from the Royal family which holds great sway in Saudi Arabia, of seeking to beautify the historic spots, fearing that these sites would disappear with time if nothing is done to preserve them.

Dr. Ahmed of London has cataloged more than 300 separate antiquity sites, including cemeteries and mosques. He says with all the development and attention the house where the Prophet Muhammad lived should be converted into a museum.

"With the new clean crisp look this will be like respecting the Kaaba, respecting the house of God or the environment of the sanctuary," Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who wants to preserve Makkah's heritage, said of the development. "This city should have been model for all of Islamic world. Its about time the Saudis did something. Muslims should be proud of this city and when they try to replicate this city it will change the entire Muslim world especially Africa.

Progress will bring thousands of jobs for Muslims – a sanctuary for devout Muslims. Muslims can live here for those who would love to emulate the life the their beloved Prophet..

More pilgrims than ever can come here, thanks to billions spent on tunnels and infrastructure to accommodate them. The city’s new markets will bring them better products and which suits their budget and style.
Once again Makkan 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 or into larger better homes with the compensation they have received.

Makkah has long been a commercial as well as a religious center, but increasingly Pilgrims bring their Islamic and global brands with them making them the dominant force here.

Some are critical of the project. Mr. Angawi, the Saudi architect, has led a lonely campaign within the kingdom to bring attention to the destruction of some historic sites. Dr. Ahmed has worked to lobby Asian and Arab governments to press the Saudis to stop such demolitions. And Mr. Ahmed, in Washington, has built a database of the historic spots now destroyed. But Saudi officials say they have been painstakingly preserving the Islamic artifacts they find, and operate two small museums in Mecca. In all, they say, more than $19 billion has been spent on preserving the country's Muslim heritage. Soon the largest Islamic Museum will not be in London – but In Makkah.

Developers and real estate agents, meanwhile, say the construction makes room for even more Muslims to take part in the hajj, and therefore serves the greater good.

That suggests that the changes are far from over.

"Makkah has never been changed like it has now," Mr. Angawi said. "What you see now is only 10 percent of what's to come. What is coming will make Makkah a model city for all Muslims to cherish."

1 comment:

Amy Alex said...

after completion of new project of Makkah there is no need to offer cheap umrah packages but now it is most important thing while you are going to plan the performance of umrah.