Arabian heights ... the Abraj al-Bait looms over the Grand Mosque and Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty
Towering over Mecca, this is the world's second-tallest building – and it is just a tiny part of a voracious development that has seen historic sites bulldozed and locals forced into shantytowns.
Hajj cash. After all, they need money to blow in the French Riviera... The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam only required when a believer reaches a certain income level. That is a built in wealth circuit in the name of Allah. And, when money is involved deception and glitter comes with it. On the other hand, this also reflects the rapidly increasing share of the Islamic stake in the World economy.
It is a challenging event. You have a city which swells and hosts +20 million people in a matter of days and goes back to its smaller self of couple of million after the Hajj. It calls for much more creative thinking and solutions than erecting a pious Las Vegas around the Kaaba.
i find this whatever-you-call-it a fitting - even honest- outgrowth of the interface between (sunni) islam and capitalism in saudi (locally) and in line with aspects of both systems (globally) . both are highly iconoclastic. both maintain a horizon of perspective beyond history and its relics - one financial and the other divine (and particular - i do not imagine this would go well with hiduism or christianity or even, to some extent, shia (and associated) islam).
the only two relevant questions, in my opinion, are:
1- (economically) would this have an inhibitive impact on the performance of hajj by people of lesser means? perhaps...perhaps not. staying in a hotel with visual access to the mecca is not a must. the real estate will drive up prices in lesser accomodations- that is true. but, the kingdom does subsidize many a pilgrimage undertaking. also, i think there are religious laws in place that allow people of little or no means - or indeed people with other disabilities- to be absolved of the duty of pilgrimage.
2- (sharia-related/cannonically (or inteperatively)) and in association with the first point, are there religious restrictions on these (if ascertained) inhibitive actions? in other words, is the responsible body of authority sinning? from that standpoint, i would be interested in knowing what the religio-political scenario is like; in other words, what the wahabis' stance on this is and how the royalty and associated capitalist bodies are dealing with wahabis in this matter.
otherwise, there is little that is unusual - contextually- about this in my opinion.
i don't understand where the deception is. please clarify. are you assuming that the religion is socialist just because you'd like it to be so? islam is bound by restrictions. the primary thing that matters is whether one commiting an act that is haram (forbidden) or not and, of second importance is whether one is commiting an act which is undesirable or not. deception/hypocrisy i.e. nifaq is a third tier sin in islam. on which front is this deception to be located? where is the conflict between this and the ultimate law of the country (sunni islam tenets)?
as for the more dust, 'orthodox' islam does not consecrate worldly places per se, apart from the very minimal (ka"aba, masjid el nabawi, masjid el haram and masjid el 'aqsa). is there a restriction on replacing/razing other places of 'heritage'? islam is, to date, a conclusion to the monotheistic religion of the dissociated diety. there is a very minimal connection to place and to secular or material history.
please note i am not defending the development in question...in fact, there is an implicit invitation to delve beyond simplistic opinionating. i have above mentioned that there is an active interface between opportunistic capitalism and the place of religion in saudi arabia. so the above development is not out of context.
now, if you don't like this aesthetically, well...if you have been to saudi arabian cities and seen some of the present architecture....well, again, you would see this contextually. there is, in my opinion, a general lack of maturity whether traditionally or modernistically. this is an ailment in many arab countries. for many reasons. on par, i belive that the international audience of architectural or suchlike occurences in these countries are immature in their expectations and their prejudices.
Socialism as a modern political system and religious way of life is an oxymoron. But yes, I would like to wish a religion which treats its faithful equally and not deceive them they have to pay for the full admission and luxury accommodations to receive its higher benefits.
The giant shopping mall architecture overpowering the holiest site of Islam is an embarrassment to Muslim World. As simple as a criticism of its urban planning value.
As to "very minimal connection to place," then why Mecca?