The merchandizing of Mecca


Most of Mecca’s historic sites have been razed, replaced by new hotels, luxury malls, and high-rises. Here, a glance at the “merchandizing of Mecca.”

The city of Mecca — birthplace of Muhammad, site of the Prophet’s first revelation, endpoint of the Hajj — has served as the epicenter of the Islamic faith for centuries. With this wealth of history over the centuries, one would expect the city to be rich in architecture dating back centuries. The reality could not be more different.

Were he to visit Mecca today, the Prophet may find new resonance in the old truism that you can never go home again. Writing in First Things, Stephen Schwartz, declares that “Mecca is threatened.” With the exception of the holy Kaaba, the majority of the city’s historical buildings and landmarks have been bulldozed, replaced with luxurious hotels, condominiums and shopping malls.

“The merchandizing of Mecca,” writes Schwartz, “reflects fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine that promotes cultural vandalism, revealing how comfortable the Saudis are with consumer values of the West.” Many of these now-desecrated locations possessed religious ties and served as important points for prayer. The ancestral residences of Muhammad’s descendants have nearly all been demolished, and replaced with modern centers of commerce and tourism. The onetime home of Abu Bakr — remembered as the Prophet’s close advisor and, upon Muhammad’s death, the first caliph — was razed. In its stead sits a Hilton Hotel.


Categories: ISLAM

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