The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs has rejected reports that rare antiquities found during the expansion of the Grand Mosque has been selling for thousands of riyals on the black market.
This comes in the wake of revelations in the local media that items have been sold to collectors for between SR6,000 and SR150,000.
Ahmed Al-Mansouri, spokesman for the presidency, said recently that this is not possible because all rare relics found are recorded and tracked by a Geographic Information System (GIS) system.
He said the system has also kept track of all the rare items found and removed from the mosque during expansion work carried out 10 years ago. This includes old columns built years ago, which are currently on display locally, he said.
He said this exhibition was set up 16 years ago adjacent to the plant that produces the kiswa, or covering of the Kaaba. It has been expanded many times over the years, Al-Mansouri said.
However, Aleqtesadiah, a sister publication of Arab News, has found that some workers have been selling items to dealers. One dealer, who preferred anonymity, claimed that he has original pieces from the Grand Mosque that were sold to him during the expansion operations.
The dealer claimed that the items came directly from the warehouses of the presidency and contractors, and other people who have great interest in Makkah’s history.
The dealer said that he has priced certain items.”For instance, one tile from the basement of the Zamzam Well, which was laid down in 1954 during the expansion project undertaken by the late King Saud, is worth SR6,000.”
“But the copper piece, which is believed to be the cover of Prophet Ibrahim’s grave, is worth SR150,000. Another piece engraved with the phrase ‘The Gate of King Abdul Aziz’ is also worth SR150,000,” said the dealer.
He said that a market has been created for these items because many are rare, dating back to the Rashidun caliphates and the rule of the Ottomans.