November 15th, 2010
08:54 AM ET

Construction booms in Mecca

Editor's Note: CNN Correspondent Nima Elbagir is in Mecca for the Hajj. She brings us this report on how the increasing number of pilgrims to Mecca is causing a billion-dollar construction boom.

I just prayed the evening prayer, the Maghrib, squeezed between a Cinnabon and a Movenpick ice cream kiosk, in an underground shopping mall. The Imam was piped into us over loudspeakers. It took me three days after our arrival in Mecca to pray within the courtyard of the Masjid Al Haraam itself.

This is my first time covering Hajj for CNN and my first actual Hajj pilgrimage and although I've seen the pictures but I was unprepared for the sheer mass of humanity. And even less prepared for how happy most of them seem to be, utterly joyous to have made it here, to have been called by God.

There is a crush of traffic jams and the searing heat. The heat is here to stay but the traffic jams might soon be a thing of the past. The Saudi Arabian authorities have quietly been putting into place the largest reconstruction project in the world.

Unbelievably, given its status as for one of the most visited places on Earth, Mecca itself is only 1200 kilometers squared (about 745 miles squared).

It lies within a narrow corridor between mountain ranges, the "hollow of Mecca." In Abrahamic times when Mecca was first settled, the protection these mountains afforded was one of Mecca’s main attractions.

Today the Saudi government is spending vast sums to blast them into submission.

“This is the largest expansion project to the Grand Mosque in history. It will increase the circumference of the Masjid to 500,000 meters squared. It is the equivalent of two times the size of the current Mosque,” Dr. Usama Al-Bar, the head of Mecca municipality told us.

“The projects, the future ones and the ones currently being undertaking, we're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. We've already spent more then 10 billion dollars.”

The sheer scale of the Mecca development project, has meant that the government is now on the look out to establish public private partnerships to ease some of the financial burden.

And the private sector is more then willing to jump on board.

The Hilton Hotel was the first five star hotel in Mecca twenty years ago and today it has been joined by almost every major hotel group. Shuja Zaidi , the Hilton Hotel Vice President, says this is only the tip of the iceberg.

“Mecca is very, very critical for almost all major hotel global brands because of the size of this place and the never ending forecast because of Mecca itself, there is only one Mecca, it's probably one of the most important markets.”

The reality is, that with the number of hajj pilgrims increasing year on year, the government has little choice but to build, build, build.

By the time this latest construction drive is finished the Masjid Al Haraam will have the capacity to host 3 million worshipers and the government's efforts are not going unnoticed.

“This is my 6th time coming to Mecca, Mohammed Azzana from Nigeria told us. “And I've seen a lot of changes. They have eased a lot of things; transportation, accommodation, feeding, and whatnot.“

But here in Mecca, there is always more to be done. For the Saudi Arabian authorities, hosting "God's guests" is an unending obligation.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Mark from Middle River

    Yep, lets see Obama had two years with a Democratic controlled congress and how many folks did he help. Heck he didn't even change out a bunch of people from the Bush Administration. … and we are still in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo is still open … and now we are in Libya. All this and guess what, folks are still out of work and the poor are still with us. Are you beginning to understand what more and more are finally getting in that both parties are more similar than different.

    June 7, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  2. Mark from Middle River

    >>> “But the Republicans keep laughing and sneering at the poor while they do their da'mdest to shove this country deeper into the hole. “

    Yep, and I thought the left said it was the wars that did this. We are three years in and not only has Obama still have the military in all the same places that G.W. did he added Libya. I thought he said we were changing directions out of a ditch.... seems like he has us pointed in the exact same direction as G.W.

    But, for all the Liberal whining … It was wild to see Obama sign George Bush's Patriot Act for another extension. 🙂

    You know Oslo, you say I did not win but you sure have gone a bit off topic. I mean I knew I wiped the floor with yah' but I did not think you would go crying like a baby from the original topic. Ecch … some folks kids 🙂

    “You obviously don't really give a crap about anyone but yourself.”

    Ahh...the tell tale sign of grand tantrum. Maybe I estimated too high with the 13 years old comment. I am seeing much much younger. Lol.

    >>> “And my name is Oso, not Oslo. I am not a city in Norway.”
    Sorry about that, I was thinking of the character Oslo on “Keeping Up Apperances” The simple fact is that your attacks are sorta hypocritical because you are making claims about the Repblicans, not providing links to back up your talking points. At the same time, like most debate novice, you leave yourself open for the simple counter-attacks. Heck I am not perfect either but you will not see me go railing that level of ranting ludicy about the Dems as you did about the Reps. Mostly because I see too much fault in both. You fail to see it so that will always make you weak.... or sorry. Either one 🙂

    >>> “ It should do you some good to see that the issues are not black and white with some middle ground always to be found.”

    Great, ..thank you, its about time Oso. The greatest form of flattery is when some one imitates you. I speak of the Middle Ground earlier and now you are speaking of the Middle Ground. Heck, maybe I might take you under my wing and make a good Republican out of yah'. You can call me Master Palpatine 🙂

    Nahh... I would rather it be a Touch By an Angel moment. My work is done... I can drive off into the sunset to help other troubled folk.

    When you walk down the road
    Heavy burden, heavy load
    I will rise and I will walk with you

    When you walk through the night
    And you feel like you wanna just give up, give up, give up on the fight
    I will come and I will walk with you

    Walk with you
    Until the sun don't even shine
    Walk with you
    I'll be there all the time
    I tell you I'll walk with you
    See you through

    June 7, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  3. Muneef

    This is one of those books to read:
    The Bible, The Qur'an and Science
    by Dr. Maurice Bucaille
    Translated from French
    by Alastair D. Pannell and The Author


    November 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  4. Gary

    Muneef Quran just another non sense ficticious religious text written by humans. ....I will never find any religion in a book

    November 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
    • Muneef


      If you may allow me to suggest if you have faith in heart but could not find in a book...
      I would say read the Holy Books start with the "Quran" being the latest holy book that came to correct the older ones just for knowledge and not for finding a religion.. And let your religion be in heart only and your mind with and for God the creator only...All you can do is communicate with God on daily basis within your self mind and heart gracing,thanking him for all health wealth family and talk as a respectable as speaking talking to a dear elder respectable highly looked upon person and much higher...delegating every charity or good deed you do for him to reward you and not the people...mind other things that you might come across when reading the holy books that make sense to you and heart mind accepts ...
      You know if did these things you are better than any other religious person that might has mixed both good and bad or lost in the too much talk,rules and complications about religions that got them far from God communication and good deeds...be different but main thing doing that maintain being at whole time on an ablution clean...I just wish God give us guidance out of the mess to look upon him only and not to the politics that run our religions...and kindly forgive me all if have made and nauseants in my postings and thankful to all whom I came across during my postings for their kind patience... So long and God Bless All...

      November 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  5. Baba Rum Raisin

    If Islam doesn't reign in their terrorists there will be another kind of BOOM in Mecca. More along the lines of - deconstruction -

    November 16, 2010 at 9:02 am |
    • Muneef

      Sura 08:61 to 64
      And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, is the Hearer, the Knower. (61) And if they would deceive thee, then lo! Allah is Sufficient for thee. He it is Who supporteth thee with His help and with the believers, (62) And (as for the believers) hath attuned their hearts. If thou hadst spent all that is in the earth thou couldst not have attuned their hearts, but Allah hath attuned them. Lo! He is Mighty, Wise. (63) O Prophet! Allah is Sufficient for thee and those who follow thee of the believers. (64)

      Tafsir sura 08: 61 Ibn Kathir.

      (61. But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.) (62. And if they intend to deceive you, then verily, Allah is All-Sufficient for you. He it is Who has supported you with His help and with the believers.) (63. And He has united their (believers') hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them. Certainly He is All-Mighty, All-Wise.)
      (64. O Prophet! Allah is sufficient for you and for the believers who follow you.)

      November 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • Muneef

      Find out about this story from the Quran;
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant? (1) Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? (2) And He sent against them flights of Birds, (3) Striking them with stones of baked clay. (4) Then did He make them like an empty field of stalks and straw, (of which the corn) has been eaten up. (5)

      Tafsir Ibn Khathir of Sura above:

      (1. Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant) (2. Did He not make their plot go astray) (3. And He sent against them birds, in flocks (Ababil).) (4. Striking them with stones of Sijjil.) (5. And He made them like `Asf, Ma'kul.) This is one of the favors Allah did for the Quraysh. He saved them from the People of the Elephant who had tried to tear down the Ka`bah and wipe out all traces of its existence. Allah destroyed them, defeated them, thwarted their plans, made their efforts in vain and sent them back routed. They were people who were Christians, and thus, their religion was closer to the True Religion (Islam) than the idolatry of the Quraysh. However, this was a means of giving a sign and preparing the way for the coming of the Messenger of Allah . For verily, he was born during that same year according to the most popular opinion. So the tongue of destiny was saying, "We will not help you, O people of Quraysh, because of any status you may have over the Ethiopians (Abyssinians). We are only helping you in order to defend the Ancient House (the Ka`bah), which We will honor, magnify, and venerate by sending the unlettered Prophet, Muhammad , the Finality of all Prophets."

      November 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • Baba Rum Raisin

      Just one more stateside attack. That's all it will take for a landslide of reaction to begin. People are sick of this terrorist sh-it. Stop it. Stop it all right now before we all die a horrible radioactive death. Frackin insanity. Police yourselves. Grow a pair. Muneff's words alone are cheap. What is he doing to stop the insanity? I think he is just white washing it.

      November 17, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  6. Trim

    Muslims have an obligation to go to Hajj. As one of the five pillars of Islam, its mandatory. To all Muslims where ever they are I'd like to wish them Happy Eid.

    November 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  7. Gary

    As an agnostic I find most all religions silly Islam is by far the most disgusting presentation of weak minded humans following blindly a horrible religion.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  8. Keith

    I know something else they can build there-the Ground Zero Mosque. We sure as hell don't want it here.

    November 15, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • im president charley

      wouldnt that make it NOT a ground zero mosque?

      November 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • Keith

      Now you're cookin' with bacon grease Charley!

      November 16, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  9. NM

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/world-day-of-god-2010/

    November 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  10. CNN moderation filter tips

    bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN "awaiting moderation" filter:

    Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination.
    You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
    s-ex.....as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
    c-um.....as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
    sp-ic....as in disp-icable, etc.
    ho-mo....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
    t-it.....as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
    tw-at....as in wristw-atch, etc.
    va-g.....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
    ra-pe....as in gr-ape, thera-peutic, etc.
    cu-nt....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
    co-on....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
    p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
    ft-w.....as in soft-ware
    j-ap.....as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc...this is one I had forgotten,as I only encountered it elsewhere...

    There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this is complete.
    okay words that you might have thought were bad...lol

    The CNN / WordPress filter also filters your EMAIL address and name as well – so you might want to check those.
    I have found the best way to re-submit is to hit the back button, look for and fix the problem, delete your cookies, and then hit "post".

    There are also "technical" ways past the filter to create "banned" words that are spelled correctly, like "html ent-ities" (google it without the dash) also known as unicode strings.

    p.s. All "Smilies" supported by this blog can be found at: en.support.wordpress.com/smilies/

    November 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Daaaang! This has taken on a life of its own! Go forth, my children! Bless the multltudes! lol

      November 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  11. Reality

    The basics:

    "In Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime, provided they are physically and financially able. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. By tradition the pilgrimage is undertaken between the 7th and 12th days of the last month of the Islamic year. At Mecca, the pilgrims are obliged to perform several rituals, including walking seven times around the Ka'bah shrine. They must also visit holy places outside Mecca and sacrifice an animal in honor of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac. In conclusion, they return to Mecca and perform a farewell circling of the shrine."

    The reality:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. "

    With respect to "laws" of Islam,

    From Sir Salman Rushdie's book "Satanic Verses", p. 376, paperback issue – for those 1 billion Muslims to read as they are forbidden to purchase or read said book:

    One of the passages that prompted the crazy Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa against Sir Rushdie:

    Mahound = Mohammed
    Gibreel = Gabriel

    "The faithful lived by lawlessness, but in those years Mahound – or should one say the Archangel Gibreel? – should one say Al-Lah? – became obsessed by law.

    Amid the palm-trees of the oasis Gibreel appeared to the Prophet and found himself spouting rules, rules, rules, until the faithful could scarcely bear the prospect of any more revelation, Salman said, rules about every da-mn thing, if a man farts let him turn his face to the wind, a rule about which hand to use for the purpose of cleaning one's behind.

    It was as if no aspect of human existence was to be left unregulated, free. The revelation – the recitation- told the faithful how much to eat, how deeply they should sleep, and which se-xual positions had received divine sanction, so that they leamed that so-domy and the missionary position were approved of by the archangel, whereas the forbidden postures included all those in which the female was on top.

    Gibreel further listed the permitted and forbidden subjects of conversation, and earmarked the parts of the body which could not be scratched no matter how unbearably they might itch.

    He vetoed the consumption of prawns, those bizarre other-worldly creatures which no member of the faithful had ever seen, and required animals to be killed slowly, by bleeding, so that by experiencing their deaths to the full they might arrive at an understanding of the meaning of their lives, for it is only at the moment of death that living creatures understand that life has been real, and not a sort of dream.

    And Gibreel the archangel specified the manner in which a man should be buried, and how his property should be divided, so that Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God this was that sounded so much like a businessman.

    This was when he had the idea that destroyed his faith, because he recalled that of course Mahound himself had been a businessman, and a damned successful one at that, a person to whom organization and rules came naturally, so how excessively convenient it was that he should have come up with such a very businesslike archangel, who handed down the management decisions of this highly corporate, if noncorporeal, God."

    November 15, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  12. Reality

    Once a day WARNING for new commentators:

    • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    "Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
    1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
    bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
    Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
    – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
    c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
    sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
    ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
    t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
    tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
    va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
    ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
    jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
    p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
    There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.
    okay words that you might not expect to be filtered....!!!

    Here's a word to add to the banned list: co-co-on
    whether it's c-oc, or co-on, this is ridiculous

    November 15, 2010 at 10:50 am |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.