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Haj commercialization will continue – it’s human nature

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

With Haj season just finishing, reports of billion dollar plans to further develop Saudi holy sites are emerging.

Currently there are projects worth $20 billion underway in Mecca alone, according to Banque Saudi Fransi. And operating in the holy site is no cheap affair: in fact a square meter of land in Mecca is estimated to cost $13,000. Developments are as varied as the completion of the $2 billion Mecca Metro or the construction of five star hotels complete with their very own spas. But the developments are gradually stirring a backlash, and analysts are now beginning to ask: how much further can Haj commercialization go?

This week, Gulf News reported that Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia, has announced a decision to invest almost $6 billion in development projects involving holy sites in Makkah. What kind of projects? Well for one thing, the government has been looking to develop a unique transportation system to reduce the usual hours-long traffic pilgrims often have to endure.

Currently, pilgrim transportation is big business. A Jeddah-based newspaper reported that the revenues pilgrim transportation companies made this year totaled $173 million. The companies that operate under Saudi Arabia’s General Syndicate of Cars are estimated to have transported 1.65 million pilgrims this season using a fleet of 19,200 buses, which together offer capacity of 900,000 seats.

That number is surely going to significantly reduce upon the completion of the $2 billion Mecca Metro, which is set to be finished next year (until which time it is reserved for use by only Saudi and GCC citizens). A demonstration that it is the government, in fact, spearheading the drive to modernize Holy Sites.

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