By Daniel Shane
Governor of Islamic holy city sticks up for major projects accused of destroying Makkah’s heritage
The governor of Saudi Arabia’s Makkah province has defended major construction and development works in Islam’s holiest city, describing them as “modern” and “sophisticated”.
Saudi authorities are said to be spending more than $21bn on expanding the city’s Masjid Al-Haram mosque, while other projects include the $10bn Jabal Omar district and the Abraj Al-Bait clock tower, one of the world’s tallest buildings.
Speaking to English language Arab News, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal defended the works, which some have accused of destroying much of ancient Makkah’s heritage. “Of all the countries that have ruled Makkah, Saudi Arabia has undertaken the greatest reforms in the city,” he said. “The expansion projects are conducted in a modern and sophisticated manner.”
Prince Khaled accused people of using online social network Twitter to criticise the city, which contains one of Saudi Arabia’s two holiest sites of worship. “There are many who hate this country and don't like to see these achievements taking place during King Abdullah's era,” he added.
Arab News also reported that compensation of SR133bn ($35bn) would be paid to owners of properties expropriated during the expansion of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, which is currently being expanded to accommodate 1.5m worshippers.
The newspaper said that out of this sum, SR50bn had already been handed out to affected home owners.
Islamic tourism is a huge earner for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom. According to a report by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, domestic tourism alone in the country increased 13.5 percent last year, generating $22bn.
Tourism accounts for about 3.1 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product and for about 7.2 percent in the kingdom's non-oil sector.
I dont see antthing wrong with making more space for worshippers as long as the existing owners/businesses are compensated, which is being handled very well by KSA. In addition, please remember that every peice of brick laid there is history, so if they are destroying historical buildings, the ones replacing them are also history. I fail to understand why people expect modern amenities/facilities elsewhere in the world, but want Makkah/Madina to be old-fashioned.