Haj commercialization will continue – it’s human nature
As the Saudi Deputy Prime Minister announces a Dh21 billion dollar development plan for holy sites in Mecca, Kipp can see that the commercialization of Haj will continue for a while yet.
November 21, 2010 2:11 by Eva Fernandes
But, as we’ve mentioned, their apparent zeal for progress is not shared by all. Possibly the most contentious developments include the new five star hotels. This year Raffles Makkah Palace hotel opened at the $3 billion Abraj Al Abit complex, which is also home to Fairmont’s Makkah Clock Royal Tower. The two hotels are located only a few steps from the Holy Ka’aba and the Masjid Al Haraam. Aside from boasting of two exclusive spas, wi-fi internet access and its status as a five star hotel, The Makkah Clock Royal Tower also breaks a few records– it is the second tallest tower (the tallest concrete structure, as they prefer to market themselves) with a 40-meter clock (five times the size of London’s Big Ben). As Reuters reported, critics of such projects are now queuing up. “The notion of filling Mecca’s sky line with modern skyscrapers is not only undermining the Kaaba, it is a clear material symbol of a massive cultural and social deletion the city has experienced,” said one Saudi columnist.
Regardless of this criticism, in Kipp’s view, the drive to modernize Mecca can only continue. Haj, at the end of the day, means huge numbers of people, and where there are so many people, there is big money. It’s human nature. In fact, Haj-related activities are already estimated to generate $10.7 billion, which helps contribute to a tenth of the Saudi’s GDP, and a significant amount of the private sector.
Sa’ad Al Qurashi, head of the Haj and Umrah Committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry spelt it out to Gulf News, “Between 25 and 30 percent of the private sector’s income (in the western region) depends on the Haj and Umrah (…) The local banks [in that area] also depend on the pouring in of an amount of money that could reach more than 10 billion Saudi riyals.”
Haj is already a vital part of the Saudi economy. Given its significance, its continuing development is almost assured. So the only question is how much more the country’s conservative Muslims can tolerate.
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