Saudi Arabia: It is Okay to Deface Makkah but Don’t Let Women Drive

When you ask a Saudi about Makkah many will talk about the way Makkah was…before the day of the Clocktower.  I used to believe that the Clocktower in Makkah was a welcoming beacon but I have changed my view.  I now see it as part of the ‘extreme commercialism’ that keeps gaining momentum in Makkah.  Only last week Marriott Corporation announced that by 2014 three new hotels will be built in Makkah adding more than 1500 rooms.  These hotels will also overlook the Haram.  Among these three hotels will be a landmark J W Marriott which is described as “…unique environments, spacious guest rooms with luxurious amenities, imaginative dining experiences and an overall heightened level of sophistication without pretense.”  Sophistication without pretense?  Is this necessary for a hotel at the Haram where the majority of visitors come for Umrah or Hajj?

Then the Makkah Hilton which is where the Makkah Clocktower is located advertises on its web site that guests can “Pray with views over the Holy Haram in the 2 air-conditioned and carpeted 10,000-seater prayer halls.”  As early as 10 years ago there were no such luxury facilities available which want to encourage its visitors to stay in rather than follow the footsteps of so many millions before them.

These luxury facilities do not come without a price to the people of Makkah.  In order to make room for the “luxury hajj and umrah” facilities, residents have been displaced and small businesses have had to relocate.  Such expansion has also resulted in rising costs for those who either live in or visit Makkah.  Is Hajj or umrah becoming cost prohibitive because of these ‘luxury enhancements?’

Performing Hajj or Umrah has always been about simplicity.  All who enter the Haram (Grand Mosque) are dressed the same and perform the same ritual.  They follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (PBUH).

I am surprised that the religious police, the muttaween, have not spoken out about the “defacing of Makkah” yet en masse they have denounced and arrested Saudi woman, Manal Al-Sherif, for daring to drive.


23 Responses

  1. They care more for business than for women’s rights. And for those displaced for this expansion. Ah, such is life.

  2. I don’t like the way make is being ‘treated’ these days. I sometimes go to the holy mosque sit there and instead of looking at the ka’ba, I look at the huge clock tower! To me, it has completely stolen the ‘show’ and it somehow makes me feel less spiritual than I used to be in that place… it’s sad. I want Makkah to have better roads, better facilities, i want it to be really organized to serve the visitors. If you read about the history of makkans in the golden age, they used to gather and welcome the visitors… these precious traditions are dead now, and so are many precious things.

  3. What they have done to Mecca and Kaaba sanctuary is a crime. Whatever you think about islam, those places had real charm and history – at least until the 1950s.

    Over the years I have collected old photos of the Kaaba, here are some (if the damn link and html code works – I usually don’t do this)

    It is a shame!

    And there is the really old stuff…


    And the interesting stuff…

    As far as I’m concerned, the ruinned it when they put the Zamzam well underground and built the concrete fortress around it.

    Yes, when I am not fighting the darn saracens, I collect old maps, photos and write history articles.

    Lets see if these pictures links work. I guess this is called “hot linking”


  4. “I am surprised that the religious police, the muttaween, have not spoken out about the “defacing of Makkah” yet en masse they have denounced and arrested Saudi woman, Manal Al-Sherif, for daring to drive.”

    Anyone who knows anything about Saudi Arabia must know by now that the religious police and their institutions are tools for the system that created, feed and instruct them to terrorize and cow the helpless population to total submission to the ruling men.

  5. Nope, didn’t work. &$#^!*& None of the pictures show. I put them in html code between brackets with the a=ref tag. Nice try old man.
    There were supposed to have been seven pictures. Oh well, such is life.

    Here is a link to the album anyway:

  6. The real Meccans are not ”displaced”! They are kicked out. Their houses and land stolen.
    Yes! STOLEN
    A prince wants your house and the land you get kicked out. You get paid 2% of it’s true value and the prince builds a big ugly hotel together with an American company.
    This is how it works.
    saudi arabia is not a country, it is the territory of the saud maffia.

  7. Ali Alyami is right, the religious police is nthing better than a band of hired thugs paid to suppress the populace. Nothing to do with religion.
    they will always support the royal family and what they want.
    because that’s where their mony comes from. Abdullah gave millions extra to the religious police when there was a chance of an uprising. that was to add to his thug forces against the people of saudi arabia.

  8. I really do not have a say since I am not Muslim but it seems that many who are believers are upset about the mass development in Maccah. I have to agreewith and fully support with American Bedu, A Saudi Women, and Save the Women. I think the opinions noted on this issue is common…..

  9. Perhaps the clock tower looks different in person, but in pictures it overwhelms the site. When one goes to many major historical sites one sees the site not the hotels.

  10. “Defacing” of Mecca (and by default Kaaba) is a crime against Meccans and the millions of muslims who flock to Kaaba each year to perform Haj. Instead of investing in its infrastructure …. education, roads, public restrooms for travelers on highways, etc etc … King Abdulallah has chosen to spend gazillions of riyals on such foolish and extravagant projects.

    It’s all about “ours” is bigger than “yours”. Like tallest and largest hotel in the world. Like the second tallest building in the world. Like the largest four-faced clock in the world. Many architecture critics have called this whole shabbang a “kitsch” and an “architectural absurdity”.

    Of course, the centerpiece of it all is the giant clock, atop the Royal Mecca Clock Tower. And the stated goal of the saudi government was that ‘Mecca Time’ will replace Greenwich Mean Time; as the accepted start of each muslim day throughout Darul Islam.

    It’s been over a year now and there have been no takers of the saudi “dream” amongst the ummah. One would think that saudis would have done a marketing study amongst the ummah before embarking on such a frivolous project. But then again, to saudis awash in petro dollars, money is no object when it comes to such toys and playthings …..

  11. The plain and simple answer is money. There’s a ton of money to be made in exploiting Mecca. There’s also a ton of money being made in the importation, housing, transportation and contracting of drivers.

    There is not, however, any money to be made by letting women drive. In fact, it will basically kill a lot of cash cows – cash cows owned by a lot of men with a lot of wasta.

    (And that doesn’t even touch on the financial incentives the Hai’a et al have in keeping the status quo. Have you seen their new 007 SUVs?)

    Because this is the “home of Islam”, the knee jerk reaction is to attach religious significance to everything, but, it’s been my observation that religion is most often used here like sugar to make a bitter pill go down.

  12. I read somewhere about six months ago that there was a push by muslims(don’t remember who) to change Greenwich mean time to Mecca mean time and have the rest of the world follow Mecca time as the world standard…hence the monstrously big clock…

  13. I would hope that anyone who does not approve of what is happening in their holy place would express their feelings via boycott. Perhaps every Muslim that disapproves of what they have done would send letters to the government AND the hotel owners explaining why they will NEVER spend their money to go there until they turn it back into the spiritual journey that it is intended to be AND also that they will be sharing their feelings with everyone they know.

  14. On the subject of Manal and her prison time … I hope that it will stir Saudi women to get off their butts and drive on protest day. It’s time for women to start standing up when police can come in the middle of the night and arrest a women for driving and speaking about it!! Don’t you think enough is enough???

  15. Wendy,

    I would think that with the mahrem system that is in place in saudi, it will be difficult for an overwhelming majority of women to participate in protests and marches, etc; without the “permission” of their guardians. That’s why one finds only a very few brave saudi women from “progressive” families and guardians, who are willing to take risks to fight the battle for saudi women liberation.

  16. Oby: “I read somewhere about six months ago that there was a push by muslims (don’t remember who) to change Greenwich mean time to Mecca mean time …”

    Yes, I remember that too. There was a conference held late last year in Qatar sponsored by a few zany muslim clerics and islamic junk scientists. At the conference …. Mecca The Center of the Earth: Theory and Practice …. , they argued that the Mecca is the center of the Earth and should be the reference point for world time.

    One junk scientist at the conference even made a bogus claim that Mecca’s longitude is perfectly aligned with magnetic north and should therefore replace the English city of Greenwich, which has been measuring time zones since 1884. But so far, there has not been much of support and no takers from the rest of the ummah.

    The conference is part of a trend called “miraculous nature of koran” (Ejaz al-Koran) which tries to find precedents for modern science from passages in the Koran. This group propogates the silly theory that all the technological and scientific achievements in the last 15 centuries were already predicted in the koranic verses; only if read with deep thought and contemplation.

    Even if one accepts the bogus claim that koran is a book of miracles, it brings up a valid point: why then kafirs have contributed so much to scientific and technological advancements more so than the muslims? Obviously, kafirs must have read the koranic verses with much more deep thought and contemplation than the muslims? :)-

  17. I’m not sure I agree that Mecca’s modernity necessarily equates with defacement however I do agree with Jay’s statement in that the charm of the sanctuary has been lost. I would imagine this however could have been avoided had they employed better architects and made the preservation of Mecca their goal verses commercialism.:(

  18. Even during my own short time in Saudi, my husband and I could see the very noticeable differences and how Makkah was changing. I think tourism is good and that religious tourism with the goal of hajj or umrah is a marketable commodity for the Kingdom but do believe rather than the luxury hotels which are obscuring and taking away from the Haram that funds could have been put to much better use with upgrading and enhancing the infrastructure in and around the Haram boundaries.

  19. Harry,
    I met a fair number of women when I was in Saudi who would, with the blessings of their families, join such a protest but there are probably not enough with the will to do it.

  20. I beg to differ with some of the comments here. The new hotelsin Abraj Al-Bait help those who need to find a place very close to the Masjid Al-Haraam when they are doing their Umrah or Hajj.

    Just a few days ago, I was there and enjoyed the few steps that it takes for me to enter the masjid from my hotel room. I don’t care about the view or the luxury (home is better anyway), what matters to me is the short distance that one has to walk to reach the masjid. How many times have I felt tired upon walking in the sun to reach when I stayed far from the masjid.

    Henry: as for your comments about ‘a few zany muslim clerics and islamic junk scientists’, I advise you to read more about the nature of quranic revelation revelation before making dubious comments on a blog (here) which no one who is interested in the miracles of the Quran from a scientific point of view is likely to read. Swallow your own spew and have the guts to refute these claims on scientific forums where you are more likely to be refuted.

  21. […] the same, Makkah itself has undergone a significant face change.  There is the addition now of the Makkah clock tower which looms above the Haram and can be seen from all directions.  New sky rise hotels and […]

  22. this is a pic of mekkah now day <<<<

  23. this is a pic of mekkah now day <<<<

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