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Old December 30th, 2010, 09:13 PM   #6741
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Old December 30th, 2010, 09:52 PM   #6742
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Old December 31st, 2010, 01:29 AM   #6743
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A truly accurate article ...

Saying it like it is.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/ar...ecca.html?_r=1
Quote:
December 29, 2010
New Look for Mecca: Gargantuan and Gaudy
By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.

The tower is just one of many construction projects in the very center of Mecca, from train lines to numerous luxury high-rises and hotels and a huge expansion of the Grand Mosque. The historic core of Mecca is being reshaped in ways that many here find appalling, sparking unusually heated criticism of the authoritarian Saudi government.

It is the commercialization of the house of God,” said Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who founded a research center that studies urban planning issues surrounding the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and has been one of the development’s most vocal critics. “The closer to the mosque, the more expensive the apartments. In the most expensive towers, you can pay millions” for a 25-year leasing agreement, he said. “If you can see the mosque, you pay triple.”

Saudi officials say that the construction boom — and the demolition that comes with it — is necessary to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of people who make the pilgrimage to Mecca, a figure that has risen to almost three million this past year. As a non-Muslim, I was not permitted to visit the city, but many Muslims I spoke to who know it well — including architects, preservationists and even some government officials — believe the real motive behind these plans is money: the desire to profit from some of the most valuable real estate in the world. And, they add, it has been facilitated by Saudi Arabia’s especially strict interpretation of Islam, which regards much history after the age of Muhammad, and the artifacts it produced, as corrupt, meaning that centuries-old buildings can be destroyed with impunity.

That mentality is dividing the holy city of Mecca — and the pilgrimage experience — along highly visible class lines, with the rich sealed inside exclusive air-conditioned high-rises encircling the Grand Mosque and the poor pushed increasingly to the periphery.

There was a time when the Saudi government’s architecture and urban planning efforts, especially around Mecca, did not seem so callous. In the 1970s, as the government was taking control of Aramco, the American conglomerate that managed the country’s oil fields, skyrocketing oil prices unleashed a wave of national modernization programs, including a large-scale effort to accommodate those performing the hajj.

The projects involved some of the world’s great architectural talents, many of whom were encouraged to experiment with a freedom they were not finding in the West, where postwar faith in Modernism was largely exhausted. The best of their works — modern yet sensitive to local environment and traditions — challenge the popular assumption that Modernist architecture, as practiced in the developing world, was nothing more than a crude expression of the West’s quest for cultural dominance.

These include the German architect Frei Otto’s remarkable tent cities from the late 1970s, made up of collapsible lightweight structures inspired by the traditions of nomadic Bedouin tribes and intended to accommodate hajj pilgrims without damaging the delicate ecology of the hills that surround the old city.

Fifty miles to the west, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Hajj terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport is a similar expression of a form of modernity that can be sensitive to local traditions and environmental conditions without reverting to kitsch. A grid of more than 200 tentlike canopies supported on a system of steel cables and columns, it is divided into small open-air villages, where travelers can rest and pray in the shade before continuing their journey.

The current plans, by contrast, can read like historical parody. Along with the giant Big Ben, there are many other overscale developments — including a proposal for the planned expansion of the Grand Mosque that dwarfs the original complex — in various mock-Islamic styles.

But the Vegas-like aura of these projects can deflect attention from the real crime: the way the developments are deforming what by all accounts was a fairly diverse and unstratified city.
The Mecca Clock Tower will be surrounded by a half-dozen luxury high-rises, each designed in a similar Westminster-meets-Wall Street style and sitting on a mall that is meant to evoke traditional souks. Built at various heights at the edge of the Grand Mosque’s courtyard, and fronted by big arched portes-cocheres, they form a postmodern pastiche that means to evoke the differences of a real city but will do little to mask the project’s mind-numbing homogeneity.

Like the luxury boxes that encircle most sports stadiums, the apartments will allow the wealthy to peer directly down at the main event from the comfort of their suites without having to mix with the ordinary rabble below.

At the same time, the scale of development has pushed middle-class and poor residents further and further from the city center. “I don’t know where they go,” Mr. Angawi said. “To the outskirts of Mecca, or they come to Jidda. Mecca is being cleansed of Meccans.”

The changes are likely to have as much of an effect on the spiritual character of the Grand Mosque as on Mecca’s urban fabric. Many people told me that the intensity of the experience of standing in the mosque’s courtyard has a lot to do with its relationship to the surrounding mountains. Most of these represent sacred sites in their own right and their looming presence imbues the space with a powerful sense of intimacy.

But that experience, too, is certain to be lessened with the addition of each new tower, which blots out another part of the view. Not that there will be much to look at: many hillsides will soon be marred by new rail lines, roads and tunnels, while others are being carved up to make room for still more towers.

“The irony is that developers argue that the more towers you build the more views you have,” said Faisal al-Mubarak, an urban planner who works at the ministry of tourism and antiquities. “But only rich people go inside these towers. They have the views.

The issue is not just run-of-the-mill class conflict. The city’s makeover also reflects a split between those who champion turbocharged capitalism and those who think it should stop at the gates of Mecca, which they see as the embodiment of an Islamic ideal of egalitarianism.

“We don’t want to bring New York to Mecca,” Mr. Angawi said. “The hajj was always supposed to be a time when everyone is the same. There are no classes, no nationalities. It is the one place where we find balance. You are supposed to leave worldly things behind you.”

The government, however, seems unmoved by such sentiments. When I mentioned Mr. Angawi’s observations at the end of a long conversation with Prince Sultan, the minister of tourism and antiquities, he simply frowned.

“When I am in Mecca and go around the kaaba, I don’t look up.”
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Old December 31st, 2010, 01:32 AM   #6744
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No Any Updates??
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Old December 31st, 2010, 02:09 AM   #6745
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So NYT are accurate and ppl of makkah arnet ? lol,
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Old December 31st, 2010, 02:27 AM   #6746
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Old December 31st, 2010, 03:55 AM   #6747
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Originally Posted by GulfArabia View Post
So NYT are accurate and ppl of makkah arnet ? lol,
Do you profess to know the opinions of Makka's residents better than this journalist that spent lots of time researching them?
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Old December 31st, 2010, 04:19 AM   #6748
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this is The course of storm water drainage, so why this "oh no" face?!!
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Old December 31st, 2010, 04:36 AM   #6749
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This thing gets more and more grotesque with each passing day, and at night it looks like a cheap convenience store with the green lights.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 04:52 AM   #6750
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if i were muslim, i'd be pissed to see this monstrosity rising so close to my religion's holiest site...imagine a tower like this beside saint peter's or to potala...
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Old December 31st, 2010, 06:55 AM   #6751
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewJM3D View Post
This thing gets more and more grotesque with each passing day, and at night it looks like a cheap convenience store with the green lights.
Agreed.

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Originally Posted by flesh_is_weak View Post
if i were muslim, i'd be pissed to see this monstrosity rising so close to my religion's holiest site...imagine a tower like this beside saint peter's or to potala...
Absolutely.

I actually took this up with UNESCO who unfortunately informed that the Sauds have refused to submit their premier sites of Islamic and world heritage within their geographic boundaries to the global list of world heritage. Their statement was that as the country itself is not making any efforts to preserve - and in fact is making major efforts to destroy such as to maximize profit - UNESCO cannot do anything.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 07:00 AM   #6752
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flesh_is_weak View Post
if i were muslim, i'd be pissed to see this monstrosity rising so close to my religion's holiest site...imagine a tower like this beside saint peter's or to potala...
why don't you convert and complain
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Old December 31st, 2010, 07:55 AM   #6753
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This failure of Saudi Arabia might be an outcome of its backward education system. Here are excerpts of an article written by a Saudi who found his way to better education abroad ...

http://www.thecrimson.com/article/20...udents-school/
Quote:
But more regrettable is the academic approach promoted at these Saudi schools; teachers encourage a system of ineffective memorization and a superficial understanding of facts for the sole purpose of passing a test. This type of education extends far beyond high school to the college and university levels. Students are continuously taught of ways to pass an exam rather than the proper approaches to learning.
<snip>
However, to criticize a teacher’s arguments in a Saudi school is unimaginable. It is not uncommon in Saudi Arabia for students to be completely silenced if they question the validity of a professor’s argument. I personally have been dismissed from the classroom countless times during high school for simply challenging the teacher’s line of reasoning.
<snip>
Critical thinking is essential to a healthy and progressive education. Unfortunately, this type of instruction is not employed within the borders of Saudi Arabia at the high school or college level. Saudi schools do not emphasize the importance of independent thinking, opting instead to conveniently spoon-feed students information that does not test their mental capabilities.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 08:06 AM   #6754
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OMG!

Are they trying to make Mecca look like a modern Vatican City with all those modern beauty and design? Vatican City did this in the Renaissance Age and they have the ALL TIME Best Architects and Artists to do the job like Leonardo da Vinci, Michealangelo, Raphael, Bernini and many other legendary artists do the work for them. I wonder what Mecca got? I'm pretty sure SOM, Zaha Hadid and Foster can do something but they are not comparable to those Italian artists.

(Vatican was so powerful and rich back then that they can do anything to beautify their city).
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Old December 31st, 2010, 09:33 AM   #6755
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Originally Posted by Gaeus View Post
OMG!

Are they trying to make Mecca look like a modern Vatican City with all those modern beauty and design? Vatican City did this in the Renaissance Age and they have the ALL TIME Best Architects and Artists to do the job like Leonardo da Vinci, Michealangelo, Raphael, Bernini and many other legendary artists do the work for them. I wonder what Mecca got? I'm pretty sure SOM, Zaha Hadid and Foster can do something but they are not comparable to those Italian artists.

(Vatican was so powerful and rich back then that they can do anything to beautify their city).

They wish, I think they are trying to create a Holy Las Vegas although bigger and tackier.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 09:42 AM   #6756
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trolls never tire
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Old December 31st, 2010, 09:58 AM   #6757
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Yeah no kidding!!

That NYT article is completely BS. It is criticism for the sake of criticism and it is completely biased. Where in the article does the writer bring up the argument for these developments? There is no opposing view at all. Where is the balance? I am disappointed with the NY Times. Where is the mention of the condition of the old/crumbling buildings that surrounded the Grand Mosque and have been torn down and are being replaced? Where is the mention of the living conditions in them? Where is the mention of how congested Makkah really is and how there is so little space to build because of the mountains? And the writer even criticizes trains?? What the hell??

I wish we could take all these people trolling and show them how things were before and how much better hopefully things will be once these projects are completed. It's sickening to hear non-muslims yaking on and on about preserving Makkah and not expanding the Mosque. Why? Are you going to visit those sites? Are you going to suffer when the Mosque cannot handle the millions more that are expected in the future as pilgrims? No!!

And, also as a muslim and as a muslim that has been to Makkah tens (if not hundreds) of times, NO I AM NOT OFFENDED by these developments. For me these cannot happen soon enough so people that come from really far away places, people that are old and feeble can come for pilgrimage and live in comfort. So that people actually find space inside the Mosque that they came from so far away to visit. The muslim population of the world is growing rapidly and so is the number of pilgrims. I am sorry people are crying over some ottoman fort and whatever historical treasure they can see without ever visiting the city but ultimately Makkah is for worship and worshippers and that is what it needs to be designed and prepared for.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 09:59 AM   #6758
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Guys enough already with all this negativity, JEEZ ! Its a great building PERIOD.

الي ما يطول العنب, حامض عنه يقول.

Envy at its worst.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 10:00 AM   #6759
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GulfArabia View Post
So NYT are accurate and ppl of makkah arnet ? lol,
Sami Angawi is Makkawi.

The article is spot on. Sultan bin Salman's quote tells you all you need to know about their attitudes towards the Hijaz's cultural heritage.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 10:11 AM   #6760
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how can the article be spot on, when the writer brings only the view of the side HE is on. thats not called good journalism. if you were a good journalist, you would bring both sides. do you think every one in Makkah has the view of the one or two he quoted?
it only shows his hatred towards Saudi Arabia.
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