Saudi Royal Family Accused of Destroying Historical Sites in Holy Cities

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The Prophet's Mosque in Medina


Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities of Islam, have undergone dramatic modern developments at the expense of historical buildings and places, which has provoked anger at the Saudi royal family.


As far as some critics of Saudi Arabia’s government are concerned, Mecca is being transformed into the Las Vegas of the Middle East. In place of historical structures dating back to the Ottoman Empire, high-rise apartments, hotels and a gigantic clock tower have risen up from the desert floor. Other key locations impacted by the construction include the Prophet Mohamed’s birthplace, which was turned into a library.


In Medina, three of the world’s oldest mosques are slated for demolition so Saudi officials can expand the Masjid an-Nabawi mosque, where Mohamed is buried, into the world’s largest building that will accommodate 1.6 million worshippers.


It is estimated that 95% of the 1,000-year-old buildings in Mecca and Medina have been destroyed over the past 20 years, according to the Gulf Institute in Washington D.C.


Saudi leaders contend the two cities must be modernized in order to handle the growing influx of pilgrims each year. About 12 million people visit the holy sites annually, and this total is expected to grow to 17 million by the middle of the next decade.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

Medina: Saudis Take a Bulldozer To Islam's History (by Jerome Taylor, The Independent)

Mecca for the Rich: Islam's Holiest Site 'Turning Into Vegas' (by Jerome Taylor, The Independent)



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