It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.Dan's take is worth reading in his post Ibn Big Ben.
One can understand the need to provide hotel rooms for the faithful, but do they really need Gucci bags to pack their plain white dress in after the fact? Apparently the royal family of the House of Saud thinks so, given the massive “Royal Mecca Clock Tower” rising up out of the dust where Ibrahim once walked and the Prophet Muhammad preached. And it is much more than a Babel-like tower: a pseudo-Islamic, capitalist Disneyland for the weary pilgrim.