Makkah's Islamic Holy Sites Overshadowed By Skyscrapers

Reports from Makkan residents show there is an increasing worry that Islam's holiest sites are disappearing behind skyscrapers. A conc...

makkah mecca clocktower skyscrapers hajj buildings
Reports from Makkan residents show there is an increasing worry that Islam's holiest sites are disappearing behind skyscrapers. A concern that was foreshadowed by Prophet Muhammad, as a sign of 'the end of times'.

Future developments of Islam's sacred city Makkah will be more in tune with modern architecture, towering skyscrapers and 5-star hotels, which the mayor of Makkah supports.

Makkah is known as the 'birthplace' of Islam, a historic city in which Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was born, and where Hajrah, wife of Prophet Ibrahim, discovered the Zazam water. The city is the qibla, prayer direction for Muslims and each year, almost 3 million Muslim pilgrims descend in the city to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

Over the last few years though, dozens of red and yellow cranes have shadowed over sites. Huge metal scaffolding can be seen from afar, aimed at increasing hotel space and improving facilities for pilgrims to make the Hajj safer and easier.

The Opulent Clock Tower
One of the most extravagent structures is of course the government-owned 600 metre (1,970 feet) clock tower. Many visitors and residents say this particularl development has moved too quickly. Critics say are the the narrow Makkan streets are not designed to hold such towering structures and that the tower "does not respect the dignity, sanctity and culture of the Kabah".

The tower, which overlooks the Kaaba, was built over a demolished 18th-century Ottoman fort on a prominent Makkan hillside, now flattened to the ground

“The building regulations in the city take into consideration the width of the streets, central locations and do not allow the building of skyscrapers…what was built was that,” Mayor Osama al-Bar told Reuters when asked about the tower.

Future projects “will be far from the grand mosque by 300 meters … The buildings will have reasonable heights between 8 to 10 floors and will have the Meccan style,” he said.

Within the next six years, the governments hopes to reinforce the infrastructure surrouding Masjid al-Haram, Makkah's Grand Mosque. Congested narrow roads will be replaced with news ones, foot bridges are to be installed for pedestrians and a larger four-line metro.

“We want to evolve Mecca, not change it,” said Sami Angawi, founder of Hajj Research Center and an expert on Mecca. However, the Crown Prince Naif said that the developent already taken place “be little compared to what will happen”.

makkah building clock tower construction hajj
Proposed 6-year plans of Makkah will push residents aside for hotels, malls and cafes.

Angawi, who is originally from Mecca, refuses to enter his city because he is unhappy about the way the city is being transfored. He said,

“I love Mecca and cannot see the beloved (sanctuary) of the Prophet being destroyed and handled this way,” said Angawi, who, like many Muslims, believes Makkah is a holy place where change must be made in a delicate manner.

Creaking Infrastructures
Deadly stampedes, tent fires and other accidents have several times caused many deaths, forcing the government to spend lavishly on new infrastructure. This year over the Umrah period before Hajj, twelve Egyptians died and two British pilgrims died in a bus fire.

The mosque will see an rise in number of hotels, malls and cafes. Housing estates will be built for suburban residents and a park for relocated residents. The long-term projects are set for complete for 2020.

A historic expansion of Masjid al-Haram will see an addition 400,000 square metres and shaded areas to shelter worshipped from the scroching sun. According to property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle, the land around the mosque is the most expensive real estate in the world, with claims that a square foot of land in some reaches up to $18,000.

“Mecca is the heart of the Islamic world… what we are doing is changing the heart from a natural heart to a mechanical one,” Angawi said.

+ National Post
Image + Ammar Awad/Reuters

Read more:
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  1. Disgusting. the greedy people are taking over, malls and cafés? a chance to overcharge readily available customers. The pilgrimage to Makkah contains rich and poor people, people who save up their whole life to make this one journey. If Makkah is transformed in such a manner, what stops this beloved city, where people are treated as equal no matter health or wealth, from turning into your average shopping mall where the poor will see the rich only through the glass windows of cafes and shops?

    My hope is only in Allah, and I pray to Allah that this beautiful city is not ruined by the ignorance of people, but alas, we have been warned, in the signs of the coming of the hour, that a time will come when ignorance will prevail and fitnah will increase

    May Allah protect us from this, grant us hikma, increase our ilm and grant us the ability to unite and stand up and to say no to unnecessary changes and innovations. Ameen

    If I have said any good, it is only from Allah, and whatever I said that is wrong is only from the Shaitaan, and If I have offended anyone please forgive me, I hope that this people will be understanding of my viewpoints

    Thank you

  2. We've been having an lengthy discussion on Sis Jannah's forum about this. Most of us are not in favor of the changes taking place, as well as the Saud's threatening to blow up Jabal-An Noor, as they believe that shirk is taking place there. We had some additional insight from a brother whose father works in the airline business and frequently travels to Saudi Arabia. This brother was saying that while he also doesn't like was going on, he has gone the"Wahabi way" in terms of having shirk take place in the Two Holy Cities. 

    I am not a fan of Wahabism at all nor is my mother and it breaks my heart to see the way that Makkah is going with this. I mean, the tower of course, is just a monstrosity and I am sure you saw the article about Makkah turning into Vegas from a non-Muslim author. 

    The Hajj is about appearing before God as equals leaving behind our material things and things that may identify us as more well off than others, etc, but now, with these buildings, only the wealthy Hajjis can get pleasant accommodations while the other Hajjis suffer. Is this helping eliminate the divide the the Hajj is supposed to do away with? 

    And yes, physically speaking, the aura of the place seems much less holy - the idea that there is a Makkan style - the brother I mention said that there is no such thing and all they want is tall and taller buildings.

    I am for making changes that ensure safety, like the Jamrat bridge, but this is just going to far. They claim to be and indeed may be preventing shirk, but it is not as if they are offering a more Islamic solution - they just believe their way is ok, while they too, are leading us into a bad place. 

    I do hope we are saved from this denigration of such beloved places. 

    Would love to hear your view Sr. Zaufishan.

  3. I just returned from Makkah, Alhumdulillah - and I can't but whole heartedly agree with everything that has been shared with regard to not liking majority of such changes that cater to certain classes and remove from the sanctity of our Islamic history, and the pulsating vein of what Islam came to teach...

    Asides all that - I had another nagging thought that refused to leave me... my last two visits (with some years between them) can't but help insist that the Zam Zam doesn't taste as it did before. Anyone else felt that too?

  4. bouhedli mohamed nassim7 Aug 2014, 01:29:00

    Jazakallahu khair.


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