Saudi Arabia: Mecca, the "View" on the Kaaba is a delight for luxury hotels - The360 Travel

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  • Saturday, December 14, 2019

    Saudi Arabia: Mecca, the "View" on the Kaaba is a delight for luxury hotels

    Saudi Arabia: Mecca, the "View" on the Kaaba is a delight for luxury hotels

    Luxury hotels with views of the Kaaba and "VIP" pilgrimage packages: the great pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca attracts a wealthy clientele that does not skimp on the means, making the holy city the eldorado of a luxury religious tourism.

    Sparkling marble, precious woods, majestic chandeliers... all the standards of international luxury are respected in the high-end hotels of Mecca.

    But their main asset is elsewhere: "we have three prayer rooms overlooking the Kaaba", boasts a manager of one of these institutions.

    Sanctuary the holiest of Islam, the Kaaba is a cubic structure wrapped in a black cloth embroidered with gold, in the heart of the Great Mosque. It is to her that Muslims around the world turn during their five daily prayers.

    "Customers dream of seeing the Kaaba 24 hours a day," says the hotelier, while in a prayer room on the 29th floor, men are staring at this hajj sanctuary, the great pilgrimage to Mecca.

    Some 2.5 million faithful from all over the world are participating this year (August 9-14) in this religious gathering, one of the five pillars of Islam.

    "Architectural foil"

    Just as posh, another luxury establishment is a "place of pilgrimage" with a view of "the most sacred place of Islam."

    Other luxury hotels have been erected in recent years in skyscrapers near holy places, often with a "panoramic" view.

    All showed complete for the period of the hajj, but also a dozen days before and as much after. They are also for the 2020 hajj. The price of a room generally exceeds the 1000 dollars in high season.

    It is within or near a vast complex of skyscrapers called Abraj Al-Bait (Kaaba Towers), opened in 2012, that we find the most opulent hotels in Mecca.

    The complex is home to one of the tallest towers in the world, recognizable by its clock 35 times larger than Big Ben in London.

    Directed by the Binladin group (linked to the family of the founder of al-Qaeda), it was built on the site of the historic Othoman Ajyad fortress, the demolition of which had caused a diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    "It is estimated that 95% of the millennial buildings of the city had to be demolished to build this eruption of architectural foil," laments the scholar Ziauddin Sardar in his book "History of Mecca".

    Other projects were launched in holy places, such as the expansion of the Great Mosque to accommodate more followers.

    "Sacred Tourism"

    Many specialized tour operators offer "VIP" packages for an "exceptional pilgrimage", with "room overlooking the Kaaba", for several thousand dollars. "Some private travel agencies offer packages of up to $ 25,000," said a Saudi official.

    "The pilgrimage is more and more a phenomenon of sacred tourism including a set of services" turnkey", says the academic Luc Chantre, author of books on the contemporary history of Mecca.

    "The expansion of infrastructure in Mecca goes hand-in-hand with the parallel development of secular leisure activities such as shopping, cultural tourism or the development of natural spaces," says the academic.

    The kingdom, which has been closed until now, has made tourism one of the cornerstones of its 2030 reform program aimed at reducing its dependence on oil.

    He announced the launch of a project to transform fifty or so islands in the Red Sea into luxury resorts and the construction of an entertainment city in Riyadh.

    This country, which imposes strict social codes, is however considered by many as an unlikely tourist destination.

    Religious tourism, however, has good days ahead: Riyadh plans to attract 30 million pilgrims per year by 2030 for the hajj and the small pilgrimage (omra) that can take place at any time of the year. This tourism attracts billions of dollars annually.

    Pilgrims are not all in the same boat: thousands are crowded into crowded dormitories in precarious hygienic conditions.

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