Islam is gradually losing one of its holiest cities in a transformation that is facing little vocal opposition. It is not that conservationists and archeologists are not concerned, but that they are afraid of voicing their opposition lest they be denied access to the Saudi country. Historians too are concerned about the potential loss of cultural heritage.
The Kaaba is the holiest place for Muslims and even other Islamic countries are quite worried about the planned demolitions and construction of new buildings in place of the old millennial ottoman structures. However, these countries cannot dare complain, even diplomatically, lest their citizens be denied pilgrimage visas into Saudi.
The once dusty sleepy town that would see numbers rise periodically during the Islamic Hajj now has a skyline dominated by luxury hotels, shopping malls and skyscrapers. This development is all thanks to oil dollars in the country. This presents a stark contrast to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed who said that Mecca was to be a place where all would be equal. The capitalist ideology has crept in and differences are emerging.
The ruling class of Saudi is of the Wahabbi sect of Islam that sees shrines, graves and other ancient sites of interest as encouraging idol worship. They are very quick when it comes to demolishing old heritage sites. There is even a proposed pulling down of the marked graves of Islam’s three major figures, columns inscribed with The Prophet’s companions and the house that belonged to Mohammed’s first wife, Khadija.
Indeed, as one Meccan put it,”if a prince of a member of the royal family wants to extend his palace he just does it. No one talks about it in public though. There’s such a climate of fear.”