Desert City Reborn: Saudi Arabia Overhauls Islam’s Holiest City Of Mecca To One Of “Monumental” Luxury
Mecca, your days are numbered …
Revelation 17:3-6, 18; 18:2-3, “… he carried me away in the Spirit to a desert. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast … The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile … the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus … the woman you saw is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth… She has become a dwelling for demons … The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury …”
Isaiah 21:1-2, “An oracle concerning the Desert by the Sea: Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland, an invader comes from the desert, from a land of terror. A dire vision has been shown to me: The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot. Elam, attack! Media, lay siege! I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused.”
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By Aya Batrawy, CTV News – “As a child, Osama al-Bar would walk from his home past Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, to the market of spice and fabric merchants where his father owned a store. At that time, Mecca was so small, pilgrims could sit at the cube-shaped Kaaba and look out at the serene desert mountains where the Prophet Muhammad once walked.
Now the market and the homes are gone. Monumental luxury hotel towers crowd around the Grand Mosque where the Kaaba is located, dwarfing it. Steep rocky hills overlooking the mosque have been levelled and are now covered with cranes building more towers in row after row.
‘My father and all the people who lived in Mecca wouldn’t recognize it,’ said al-Bar, who is now Mecca’s mayor.
As Muslims from around the world stream into Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage this week, they come to a city undergoing the biggest transformation in its history.
Decades ago, this was a low-built city of centuries-old neighbourhoods. Over the years, it saw piecemeal renewal projects. But in the mid-2000s, the kingdom launched its most ambitious overhaul ever with a series of mega-projects that, though incomplete, have already reshaped Mecca.
Old neighbourhoods have been erased for hotel towers and malls built right up to the edge of the Grand Mosque. Historic sites significant for Islam have been demolished. Next to the Kaaba soars the world’s third tallest skyscraper, topped by a gigantic clock, which is splashed with colored lights at night.
‘It’s not Mecca. It’s Mecca-hattan. This tower and the lights in it are like Vegas,’ said Sami Angawi, an architect who spent his life studying hajj and is one of the most outspoken critics of the changes. ‘The truth of the history of Mecca is wiped out … with bulldozers and dynamite. Is this development?’
Critics complain the result is stripping the holy city of its spirituality. They also say it is robbing the hajj of its more than 1,400-year-old message that all Muslims, rich or poor, are equal before God as they perform the rites meant to cleanse them of sin, starting and ending by circling the Kaaba seven times.
Mecca is revered by hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide. They face the Kaaba every day in their prayers. The Grand Mosque is one of the few places in the world where Muslims of all stripes gather — Sunnis and Shiites, secular Muslims, mystics and hard-liners.
Overseeing Mecca is also a key source of prestige for Saudi Arabia’s monarchy. The past two kings — the current one, Abdullah, and his predecessor, Fahd — have adopted the further title of ‘custodian of the two holy mosques’ to boost their status, referring to Mecca’s Grand Mosque and Muhammad’s mosque in nearby Medina.
Now Mecca is being moulded to a particularly Saudi vision that bolsters the rule of the Al Saud royal family.
Two forces shape that vision. One is raw, petrodollar-fueled capitalism. Mecca’s planners are largely catering to wealthier pilgrims by focusing on construction of five-star hotels, surrounding the Kaaba in marble-sheathed luxury. Nearby, pilgrims can shop at international chains, including a Paris Hilton store and a gender-segregated Starbucks.
The other force is …” Read more.