Construction of Royal Mecca Clock Tower in Saudi Arabia draws criticism
Muslim pilgrims pray inside the Grand Mosque, with the Mecca Clock lit up in the background, on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan in Mecca. Reuters

The recent architectural developments surrounding the Grand Mosque in Mecca, regarded as the holiest site of the Muslim world, particularly in connection with the recently developed Royal Mecca Clock Tower have sparked off heated debates.

Some regard them as architectural absurdity, some as a sham to the age-old local customs and traditions of the Islam community - new architectural developments in and around the city have been drawing the attention of the world and raising speculations on the motive behind the constructions.

Officials of the Saudi government however maintain that the constructional changes are essential to accommodate the ever-increasing pilgrims that come to visit the Holy place.

But the high prices that people have to pay for the exclusive towers make prompted questions if officials were really working towards promoting the Hajj pilgrimage or whether it is all about commercialization.

The Royal Mecca Clock Tower is just one of the many construction projects in the city, states the New York Times. From high-end luxury hotels to train lines; government officials are working on major expansion around the Grand Mosque.

The tower houses an enormous shopping mall, a prayer hall that can accommodate thousands of people and 800 luxury rooms. The entire structure has been designed to resemble the famed four-faced chiming clock, Big Ben, located at the Palace of Westminster in London. Arabic inscriptions and a crescent-shaped spire adorn the top of the tower.

A number of high rises and luxury towers are also being constructed adjoining the tower, all designed to give a contemporary feel.

A direct impact of the architectural developments is that a clear line of demarcation has been established wherein the wealthy can pay homage to the Holy land by merely looking through their windows while the other pilgrims continue with the usual custom of following the crowd.