Saudi Arabia is considering to build a retractable roof over Islam’s holiest site, which has drawn accusations that Riyadh is distorting the historic heritage. A video has gone viral which shows a scale model of the sports stadium-like roof over the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
The security chief of the Grand Mosque told the local media in August that the ‘umbrellas project’ would start next year.
“The project will be the largest in the world with a total area of around 2,809 metres squared,” he said.
The head of the London-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation has strongly condemned the plans.
“For centuries Muslims have travelled to the site… and not complained about this. I can’t understand for the life of me why you would destroy the cradle of Islam and all our heritage like this”, Dr Irfan Al Alawi told.
“Nothing should cover the Kaaba from above as Muslims believe the mercy of God descends from the highest heavens. This umbrella plan looks like a spaceship from a Hollywood movie,” he added.
The Saudi monarchy, under the self-appointed title custodian has earlier been accused of cultural vandalism in Mecca and Medina.
Over 98 percent of the kingdom’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed under the command of the Al Saud ruling family, estimates the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation.
The ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam adhered to by the state has promoted the destruction of historical buildings and graves associated with the prophet Muhammad and his companions over fears locals were committing heresy by worshiping them.
Mecca’s Ottoman fortress was also destroyed in 2003 which will be replaced with the giant Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower.
Recently, the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced plans to set up two investment companies to develop infrastructure at the two holy sites.
In September 2015, a construction crane crashed over pilgrims congregating at the Grand Mosque, leaving more than 100 people dead.
Later in the month, another disaster took place when a deadly stampede along the route killed around 2300 people.
The stampede drew fierce criticism, in particular from rival Iran which reported 464 of its citizens killed.