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Published on : Thursday, June 9, 2016
Travelling to Mecca used to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for a Muslim. The journey also used to test the patience of the devotees, when they had to travel for months to reach their holy pilgrimage.
Invent of easy air and sea travel, reduced the distance so rapidly that Mecca is being considered as one of the top holy travel destinations. According to a survey, on 2015 alone, three million pilgrims visited Mecca for hajj, while five million more visited for umrah. The survey also pointed out that millions of Saudi pass through the desert town every year as tourists.
Earlier in 20th century, Mecca used to be a small city, full of stone houses with lattices windows and balconies. Now, the Grand Mosque and the Kabaa (House of God) is surrounded by mountainous shopping malls, hotels and apartments.
It is estimated that the huge transformation was the result of oil boom since late 70s. A $26.6 billion project by the Saudi Binladen Group ensured the expansion of the Grand Mosque by adding new wings, prayer areas, escalators and numerous bathrooms.
King Salman has proposed to build a ring road, subway and intercity trains to ease the stay of worshippers.
Visitors will also be able to reach the peak and experience the panoramic view of the entire city from the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, which is five times in size of Big Ben.
Luxury hotels like the Fairmont, Raffles Makkah Palace offers a relaxing stay in the holy city with ‘Haram view’ and ‘Kaaba view’ in exchange for $1500 to $2700 per night, during hajj.
According to pilgrim Locatelli, who gained the entry to the holy sites due to his marriage with an Indonesian Muslim, stated, “Mecca was truly peaceful. My fear melted away within days. I wanted to show my Western viewers that being a holy tourist in Mecca is not very different that we do similar things whether we go to a great temple, to St. Peter’s or to Mecca.” Locatelli is an Italian Catholic.
The recent data shows that not only Muslims, but others from different religious background are also considering the city of Macca as one of the major spiritual tourist destinations.