When I visited Mecca years ago, I was struck, even at the age of the 12, at just how disparate the city was. Throngs of beggars, some who reportedly mutilated themselves in order to fetch higher and more frequent donations from Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, sat outside in the dirty street while feet away, high sprawling towers filled with the world’s richest people ate and drank and paid them no heed.
Fully loaded Range Rovers and white Lamborghinis passed by children riding a donkey cart trying to sell most-likely spoiled yogurt and bread in bagged lunches meant for pilgrims headed to the Kaaba.
I became disillusioned with the idea of religious pilgrimages, especially because the entire point of a “pilgrimage” is to undergo some type of spiritual experience through hardship. Kind of hard to do that when you traveled to the ‘Holy Land’ on an airplane and were shacked up in a comfortable hotel.
And it looks like that stark juxtaposition between the rich and poor is only going to get starker with Mecca’s planned Abraj Kudai hotel.
The enormous structure is slated to become the world’s largest hotel with over 10,000 rooms and 70 restaurants. That’s right. Oh, and it’s going to cost a whopping $3.5 billion to build.
Does it seem like overkill? Probably, but there’s no doubt that this bad boy will most likely get filled to capacity during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.
Some two million Muslims attend the Hajj Pilgrimage every single year with many of them foreigners. Umrah is another pilgrimage that, although it doesn’t receive as many people, still receives throngs of tourists looking to secure themselves some eternal salvation.
The 1.4 million square foot structure has entire floors dedicated to royal family members. There’s even helipads for crying out loud.
A gigantic convention center will also be in the hotel and the building is being backed by the ministry of finance, so you know there’s going to be both public and private pushes for events to take place in the new structure.
The building also packs one of the largest domes in the world right on top of its building.
Th hotel’s opening might be delayed until 2018 due to the current economic state of Saudi Arabia, but it’s still set to open late next year.
It’s hard to imagine that spending a night in this sprawling building-city will be cheap, but then again, if you’re blowing a bunch of money on a religious vacation, you might as well go all out.