For sometime, criticisms have started to voice themselves with regards to Mecca’s conspicuous neoliberal transformation. Personally, I have only visited it before the tower clock new building was put in place (fortunately).  Even back then, the tower overlooking the haram (that is the environs of the mosque) was enough to instil a claustrophobic sense. (word of mouth was that it was for royalty to pray in- I have no idea if this was true or if the building exists).

Being a pilgrim involves orienting to spatiality and temporality  very differently and even in otherworldly ways. Until now I can not grapple with the fact that a clock tower dominates the skyline of the ritual that is meant to run counter to most of the things modern temporality stands for..

Back then – as a teenager- I wasn’t convinced that royalty can pray from an elevated building and not with people (if the urban legend is true), or the fact that the first building that greeted me when I existed the haram was a shopping mall.

Years have passed, and I am sure that if I go there again the city would have changed  beyond my recognition. An Architecture professor has compared current Mecca to Las Vegas, and voices that couldn’t be so critical before -just because the city is the site of the holiest of rituals- are more open about the very neoliberal face it is pulling off. (Also about how an expensive endeavour pilgrimages itself is becoming for the majority of muslims). Check this: A prayer for Mecca:

Further interesting links and readings on this issue, are:

But on a more beautiful note: take a look at one of the aesthetic imaginations hajj sprinkles elsewhere. In Egypt, murals (or now more fashionably called graffiti) have been painted for ages on the houses of those who were lucky to perform pilgrimage. (also Malcolm Miles wrote about them in his  Uses of Decoration).

Happy Eid.