Pertaining to Mecca Saudi Arabia to carry out the Umrah — or the Hajj, the pilgrimage considered obligatory once in the life of any Muslim who can afford it — provides cachet to the fortunate pilgrim in the eyes of the faithful.
The Grand Mosque having filled to capacity with the faithful, substantial crowds bow in prayer outside. Throughout the Hajj, 3 million people can be found in and around the mosque during prayer times.
A view of the Grand Mosque from a Grand Royal Suite at the Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower. The suite can cost $10,000 a night.
It was in fact shot from one of the highest points of the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, which houses a hulking hotel and shopping complex a few hundred meters from the gates of the Grand Mosque — 46 times taller than the Kaaba and crowned by a clock 5 times the size of Big Ben.
A building boom in the city’s sacred center has produced an amazing, high-tech 21st-century pilgrimage.
In the days before rapid air or sea travel, it could take months to go to Mecca Saudi Arabia. The spiritual heart of Islam lay far from its great capitals in Delhi, Istanbul, and Isfahan. The devout came from distant lands in horse-drawn carriages, by camel, and on foot. Bedouin tribes regularly robbed these pilgrims, who were the primary source of revenue for this ancient desert town.
Now, the ease of air travel and the increase of a global Muslim middle class have actually made the journey to Mecca Saudi Arabia far less tough and much more typical. In 2015, 3 million came for the hajj, a pilgrimage in the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar that is considered obligatory for every Muslim who can afford it; 5 million more came for the Umrah, a minor pilgrimage that can be made for much of the year. And countless of Saudi citizens routinely travel through Mecca’s sacred sites as tourists.
Mecca Saudi Arabia has radically altered to accommodate this growing increase of pilgrims. Up until the first half of the 20th century, this was a small city of spacious stone homes famed for their mashrabiyya, or latticed windows and verandas. 5 hills called as the rim of Mecca Saudi Arabia encircled the Kaaba, or House of God and the Grand Mosque located in the city center. Today, all a visitor would recognize from earlier pictures of Mecca are the Ottoman domes of the Grand Mosque, its minarets, and the Kaaba. The ancient hills, the old stone houses and many of the sites linked to the life of the Prophet Muhammad have been wiped out by towering hotels, shopping malls, and apartment blocks.
It is a transformation that has actually been in progress because of the late 1970s when the wealth generated by the oil boom led Saudi monarchs to develop an ambitious plan to replace earlier Ottoman structures and to broaden the Grand Mosque and its surroundings with Arab-style architecture. At a projected expense of $26.7 billion, the Saudi Binladen Group has led the efforts to increase the capacity of the Grand Mosque, including brand-new wings, prayer areas, escalators and hundreds of bathrooms. Jamarat stoning (a symbolic stoning of the devil based on historical tradition).
Before his death in 2015, King Abdullah ordered the installation of the world’s biggest folding umbrellas in the piazzas outside the Grand Mosque, to shelter worshippers from the blistering sun as they offered prayers, read the Quran or simply basked in their proximity to this holy site. His successor, King Salman, revealed plans to construct a ring road, intercity trains, and subways to accommodate millions of worshipers. A lot of people in ihram – two pieces of white towel – like fabric that the pilgrims use to communicate a state of purity and human equality.
Throughout the history of Islam, no other ruler built in such distance to the Kaaba; undoubtedly none constructed anything to dwarf it. In high-end hotels like the Raffles Makkah Palace and the Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower, views of the holiest site of Islam are marketed as the “Kaaba view” and “Haram view,” and a standard room can run anywhere from $1,600 to $2,800 a night during the hajj.
Countless of Hajj pilgrims are preparing to head home, after 5 days performing ancient rites, revering a God omnipresent in the city of Mecca Saudi Arabia. They have stoned figurative Devils, they have slept in the world’s biggest tent city, they have drunk water from the Zamzam well together: a heaving throng of nearly 2 million people from all over the world.
Circling the Kaaba, the black cubic epicenter of this sanctuary city, pilgrims would have admired see among the minarets of the Grand Mosque, dwarfed by Abraj al-Bait clocktower, a much-maligned high-end hotel and commercial complex and the second-tallest structure worldwide. Tens of thousands of people come to the Grand Mosque every day to circle the Kaaba 7 times as part of the Umrah pilgrimage. From here, they will take a trip to the hills called Marwa and Safa elsewhere on the mosque grounds to complete the pilgrimage.
Certainly, though rebuilt throughout the centuries, the minarets – like much of the city – are now relics of a pre-modern Mecca. Cranes and scaffolding now dominate the central horizon, reminders that the city is undergoing an enormous state-run expansion to be able to manage ever-increasing numbers of annual pilgrims in the future.
In the 1960s, before travel became more affordable, Hajj pilgrims numbered approximately 200,000. Inning accordance with Mecca’s mayor, today there are 2 to 3 million of them, with an extra 12 million performing the lesser pilgrimage of Umrah, which can be done at any point throughout the year. Confronted with a dip in oil prices, profits from Meccan tourism is anticipated to become a greater source of income for the Saudi Kingdom’s economy. Under its existing plans, the city anticipates to include several million more pilgrims a year by 2020. Next year, they will see the Abraj Kudai, the largest hotel on Earth.