By ASMA ALSHARIF | REUTERS
Published: Nov 10, 2011 01:04 Updated: Nov 10, 2011 01:04
MAKKAH: Future development in the holy city of Makkah will be more in tune with traditional architecture, says Mayor Osama Al-Bar.
The holy city is studded with dozens of yellow and red cranes and metal scaffolding aimed at increasing hotel space and improving facilities to make the annual Haj pilgrimage safer and easier.
As more than 2.5 million Muslims from across the world flood Makkah’s narrow streets for the annual pilgrimage, however, many visitors and residents point to a 600-meter tower surmounted by a huge clock as evidence development has moved too quickly.
“The building regulations in the city take into consideration the width of the streets, central locations and do not allow the building of skyscrapers...what was built was that,” Al-Bar told Reuters when asked about the tower.
Future projects “will be far from the Grand Mosque by 300 meters ... The buildings will have reasonable heights between 8 to 10 floors and will have the Makkah style,” he said.
Within six years, the government hopes to reinforce the infrastructure surrounding Makkah’s Grand Mosque replacing congested narrow roads with new ones, installing footbridges for pedestrians and a four-line metro.
On Tuesday, Crown Prince Naif said the development that had already taken place would “be little compared to what will happen.”
“We want to evolve Makkah, not change it,” said Sami Angawi, founder of Haj Research Center and an expert on Makkah.
“I love Makkah and cannot see the beloved (sanctuary) of the Prophet being handled this way,” said Angawi, who shares a belief with many Muslims that Makkah is a holy place where change must be made in a delicate manner.
Deadly stampedes, tent fires and other accidents have several times caused hundreds of deaths, forcing the government to spend lavishly on new infrastructure.
“For sure (the expansion) will be good for pilgrims because usually there are huge numbers of pilgrims, especially during prayer times,” Ahdab Seif, an Egyptian pilgrim, said outside the Grand Mosque.
“Makkah is known to be an old city ... it has some old haphazard buildings located near the Grand Mosque and this project will reshape the face of Makkah and raise the capacity and services of the city,” Al-Bar said.
“By 2020 we hope that results will be visible as major parts of the projects will be complete,” he said.
Among the announced projects, which will cost more than $30 billion, is a historic expansion of the Grand Mosque to add 400,000 square meters and add shaded areas to shelter worshippers from the scorching desert sun.
A sq foot of land around the Grand Mosque has in some cases reached up to $18,000, Al-Bar said, significantly higher than average prices of around $4,420 in Monaco.
Property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle could not corroborate those prices but confirmed that the land around the Grand Mosque is the most expensive real estate in the world.
original article (longer): http://af.reuters.com/article/worldN...7A82MF20111109