Saudi's plan to redevelop Mecca sparks concerns over 'cultural vandalism'

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 10, 2013 09:30 hrs

The Ottoman-era entrance in Mecca's Grand Mosque has become the latest battleground in a conflict between those who want to preserve the city's architectural heritage and Saudi authorities who are pushing for redeveloping it.

The 17th century portico, one of the oldest parts of the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest, is being removed by Mecca authorities as part of an expansion project to create more space for soaring numbers of pilgrims.

According to CNN, millions of people visit Mecca and Medina annually, and the number is only expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.

However, one UK-based Saudi historian said what Saudi authorities are doing in Mecca amounts to 'cultural vandalism'.

Irfan Al Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, which seeks to preserve historical sites in Saudi Arabia, said that significant features of Mecca and Medina's architectural history are being lost on account of the renovations, the report said.

He has called on the Muslim world to voice its disapproval at the demolitions, which he likened to the torching of ancient manuscripts by Islamists in Timbuktu, Mali.

According to the report, Saudi Binladin Group's Mohammed Jom'a, the supervisor of the project at Mecca's Grand Mosque, said that the expansion would triple the amount of space there.

Al Alawi claims the threat to the heritage of the mosques adds to a wider pattern of destruction of historic sites in Saudi Arabia, it added. (ANI)

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