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World’s largest clock ticks in Mecca 15, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi authorities have ‘opened’ the world’s largest clock overlooking Mecca. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the tower housing Big Ben in London, it will be much bigger: the clock diameter will be 151ft across.The building itself will be the second tallest building on earth.

Islamic scholars have mooted the idea that now ‘GMT’ should begin in Mecca, not Greenwich, London. They will, I’d have thought, have a hard time making this idea stick. Some Islamic scholar, bolstering Mecca’s claim for the new ‘start of time’ said that

If someone travels to Mecca or lives there, he lives longer, is healthier and is less affected by the earth’s gravity…You get charged with energy.

Does he not realise how absurd he sounds?

More generally, I am fairly appalled by this whole development. Whilst I am no Islamic scholar, I simply can’t believe that it is in keeping with the notion of an Islamic pilgrimage – the arduous trek [the pilgrimage itself] being a test of faith etc – that the new 6, 7 or 20 star hotel in Mecca will have a chocolate sommelier. It just seems wholly wrong to me.

(In the same way, to me, it is wrong that you can now fly into Lourdes: again, missing the point: it is the journey not the destination that is the whole point of these things.)

New Mecca luxury development 16, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam.
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mecca hotel

Plans are afoot to build a behemoth super-luxury hotel overlooking Islam’s most important site at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. As one might expect, the hotel will be at the very top end of the spectrum replete with fantastically expensive suites, 24-hour butler service and what every Haaj-goer needs, a chocolate room where chefs will prepare “bespoke pralines and truffles”.

Whilst such uuber-luxurious hotels and gimmicks may annoy some for their unbridled and sheer ostentation, it is part and parcel of today’s capitalist world: it may not be nice but it is, is its own way, necessary. However, to have such luxuries at Mecca is just wrong. Mecca is the end point of pilgrimage for the world’s Muslims. As in Christianity, a pilgrimage is supposed to be an arduous experience giving people time for reflection and contemplation: it is not supposed to be a luxurious jaunt for hand-made chocolates and waiter service.

As far as I see this, developments like this – for which historical buildings are having to be torn down – are utterly against the grain and true meaning of Islam as was the decision to start flights to Lourdes, the Christian Pilgrimage site in France. Certainly in Christianity, and to a lesser though still important extent in Islam, the journey is the key thing. Yes, praying at Lourdes itself is important, but the travails to get there proving your dedication etc etc are just as important (if not more important) than the ceremony at the end itself. Skipping out the journey for convenience’s sake is to woefully misunderstand the nature of the pilgrimage in the first place.