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Tue 6 May 2008 02:01 PM

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Fairmont to manage landmark Mecca hotel

ATM: Kingdom-owned hotel chain teams up with Saudi Binladin on Clock Tower Hotel.

Fairmont Hotels will manage the Makkah Clock Tower Royal Hotel, regarded as the most luxurious hotel in the Holy City, to open this year in September, its manager told on Tuesday.

The hotel, part of the Abraj Al-Bait Complex of seven towers opposite the Grand Mosque, will have the world's largest clock on each side and also be the tallest hotel in Makkah, Mohammed Arkobi said.

"The hotel will open partially this year on September 1," said Arkobi, speaking at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai.

"With four stages of opening, it will be fully operational by August 1 2009. "The hotel is at the centre of the seven tower complex located opposite the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, occupying a space equal to 15.6 million square feet.

The project as a whole is part of the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, which is mandated to upgrade the precincts of The Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina.

The Saudi Binladin Company (SBC), which previously oversaw the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques, has developed the Abraj Al-Bait project, with the Fairmont Hotel managing the Makkah Clock Tower hotel.

Other hotels and apartment buildings in the complex include ZamZam Tower, which will be managed by the French hotel chain Sofitel, and Hajar Tower, to be managed by Movenpick.

Kingdom Holding, chaired by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, majority-owns Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, the parent company of Fairmont Hotels.

"We are honoured to have been entrusted with the management of this extraordinary hotel project, which is the culmination of our long-term partnership with Kingdom and its relationship with SBC," said William Fatt, CEO of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International in a statement.

"We are delighted to be working with SBC, renowned for their extensive efforts in transforming and developing the region."

The Makkah Clock Tower Royal Hotel will also be among the world's tallest towers with 76 stories reaching 577 metres, and will include a 40-metre clock, the Makkah Clock, which is 4.7 times larger than Big Ben's famous clock in Parliament Square in London.

"It will have a clock which will be 40 metres by 40 metres on all four sides," said Arkobi. "It can be seen at a distance of 17 kilometres at night, and more than 11 kilometres in the daytime."

The Makkah Clock will announce daily prayers and the building will also house the Lunar Observation Centre and Islamic Museum.

Akorbi, who estimated the cost of the investment of the project at $3 billion, also said that the hotel would be one of the world's "smartest" buildings, running over 10,000 kilometres of fibre-optics.

It will also house a large ballroom capable of housing 1,500 attendees for Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) meetings.

In terms of amenities, the hotel will have 76 elevators and 1,005 guestrooms and suites. It will have five "Royal" floors and two "Golden floors", the latter referring to Fairmont Gold, the company's exclusive "hotel within a hotel".

"The golden hotels have their own reception, check-in and lounge," said Arkobi. "The royal floors are just that - royal. They are like palaces, with some suites 1,200 square metres and one suite which is 3,600 square metres."

Arkobi also said that there would be 11 restaurants in the luxurious hotel, from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iran, India as well as a Chinese noodle House.

There would also be two spas in the hotel, one specifically for males and one for females, Arkobi said.

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