Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adab in Architecture - New Mecca...

Looks fancy. How will it feel at ground level?
Matasan, a boon friend recently returned from Umrah pilgrimage and he showed me some pictures of Mecca which he took last month. He was part of the wild gang of pilgrims that I was honoured to be part of last year which took us from Jerusalem to Medina and finally Mecca. If you are curious about the previous Umrah, just search 'umrah' or 'pilgrimage' in this almanac and you will get to the postings which numbered up to part 31.

SIGH. I must report that the old part of Mecca where I stayed last year, about 500 metres downhill from the Masjidil Haram (the holiest mosque of the faith wherein sits the Holy Kaaba) is alas, no more. Those cheap(ish) hotels and shops which sold cheap trinkets, books, sandals, rosaries and other assortment of moderately priced items that a pilgrim can purchase for his friends and family waiting for him back home is alas, no more. As I am writing now, the old buildings depicted in the photos below have in all probability been demolished to make way for the government's modern revamping of the cityscape and skyline of Mecca...

This is the main avenue between the old buildings through which we made our way
from the hotel to the Masjidil Haram. As you can see, the shutters are all down and
the shops have all been abandoned.
This is the main road which runs parallel to the inner pedestrian avenue, and even
these shops, launderettes and money-changers have been closed down. Where will
they be housed next?
The scruffy alley way though which I would wander about, window shopping
and people-watching. All these buildings are destined to be demolished.
On the first night and early morning after my Umrah, I wandered exhausted and tired
back to the hotel. But on the way, I bought soft drinks and a kebab here. 

Primed for demolition. Another quasi-budget hotel.
No more money to be changed here. No more stories to be shared.
How despondent I would have been had I been with my friend walking through
the desolate avenues and alleys where once commerce and people thrived.
Oh, there are still shops and restaurants, but they are part of the new mall
that sits right next to the Masjidil Haram. I much prefer the old quarter with
its narrow alleyways, poor but happy pilgrims and bustling traders. The new mall
feels like a mall anywhere else in the world, but perhaps with many more
watches and perfume shops. They have a thing for watches and perfumes here.
A sign of the times. A couple of kilometres from the Masjidil Haram, you can
already see the Clock Tower and high-rise hotels standing proud and overlooking
the holiest mosque of the religion. Once where pilgrims would gaze upwards
upon the Holy Kaaba, today they can stare down on the House of God.
I do not know about you, but even aesthetically, there is something
horribly wrong with this picture.
Who is happy with what is happening to Mecca (and Medina, come to think of it)? Even if you have not a drop of sentimental attachment to the old houses, surau (small mosques) and maqam (tombs) of the Companions and wives of the Prophet, the old quarters, houses, restaurants and shops, there is a question of the aesthetics that we should answer for - Aesthetics and a sense of proportion. Because you see, Adab, which is the courtly courtesies and manners taught by Muhammad (pbuh) is not merely about beautiful human interaction, but also beautiful and restrained interaction of the physical spaces and buildings. What more when you are talking about the holiest mosque in Islam. As I look at the last two pictures above, I can only shake my head, thinking, "Oh dear God... Oh my beloved Prophet..., what are they doing to your city?"

Change for the sake of change? I do not believe in this. But perhaps things will be better, more beautiful, better organised and cleaner (and God knows Mecca needs a good clean up). For the sake of the world, I hope so. I truly hope so.

Oh my dear readers, in whatever faith you are in... may you protect and care for your holy sites better than us Muslims.  

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way


Anonymous said...


Milky Tea said...

correcto mundo... wa min Allah at-taufiq

Ahmed Yass said...

the muslims are destroying the holy city. making it to the rich and fameus.


If you did not know they also built a toilet over the prophet house.


Milky Tea said...

No sane man or woman, Muslim or otherwise would do such thing to the resting place of their mothers or fathers.

Shame indeed, Ahmed...

May we be guided to the best way, and those lost, be found. insyaAllah.