I think the final and most important part of my review of Makkah has to be the Tower. It is one of the most iconic buildings associated with Makkah and Muslims. Like every modern city, there is a mall. Yes, it is next to the holiest place packed with shops, food courts, luxury hotels and restaurants. This mall has raised a lot of differences in opinions and minds. Some like it and others don’t.
They say that it is so close to the holy mosque and that the place is sacred and it shouldn’t be given to building a mall. How can you go shopping while you are in Makkah instead of praying and taking time out to reflect on the purpose of life?
Where is the Abraj Al Bait clock tower located?
The Abraj Al Bait Clock Tower is located in the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is situated at the entrance to the Masjid al-Haram, the holiest site in Islam. The impressive clock tower stands at a height of 601 meters (1,975 feet) and is one of the world’s tallest buildings.
The tower contains a hotel, shopping mall, museum, prayer room and an Islamic research centre. It also has several observation decks that offer breathtaking views over Mecca and the surrounding area. The clock face was designed by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam and consists of four 45-meter (145-foot) diameter clocks which can be seen from miles away.
The entire structure is illuminated at night by floodlights that add to its grandeur and beauty. Not only does it serve as a landmark for pilgrims on their way to pray but is also considered a symbol of progress for Saudi Arabia’s economy as well as for Islamic culture worldwide.
Why was the Abraj Al Bait clock tower built?
The Abraj Al Bait clock tower was built in 2012 as part of the massive Abraj Al Bait complex in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The complex was built to accommodate the millions of Muslim pilgrims that visit Mecca annually.
The primary reason for building this massive structure was to provide pilgrims with easy access to prayer sites in the holy city of Mecca. The four clocks located at the top of the tower are seen from miles away and can be used to tell time accurately even during daylight hours when traditional sundials fail. It is also an impressive feat of engineering and design that will be remembered for years to come.
Building the monumental clock tower that is the largest in the world was an expensive undertaking. Work began in 2002 and didn’t conclude until 2012, with a total cost of $15 billion.
In simple words, if you have been to Makkah, you will know that the area is surrounded by mountains and rocks. There is no possible way to accommodate the millions of pilgrims coming every year unless you build tall structures with hotels that can accommodate them.
After years of writing about DIY Umrah, I know people want to stay close to Haram and the Clock Tower provides this opportunity. Also, the view from some of these hotels is the best for seeing the Kaaba from above.
Which Hotels are located in the Makkah Clock Tower?
The Al-Abraj Skyscraper hosts some luxury hotels such as Fairmont, Swisshotel, Raffles, Pullman Zam Zam etc.
It also has some really expensive apartments, fine-dining restaurants and a mall.
The mall covers the first three floors and it has pretty much everything that a Western mall has. There are a total of 1,024 rooms in the Abraj Al-Bait clock tower.
It has a food court which I have to admit is handy when you are starving.
The hotel complexes, apartments and fine dining restaurants take up the rest of the floors and you reach them via elevators located close to the ground floor.
I personally don’t mind the mall so much, although it is not my favourite. I understand many people think it shouldn’t be there but I think it makes sense in a way.
You cannot be worshipping 24/7 and you do need to eat and shop. It is a massive complex that has the entrances for the hotels and the mall at the same entrance and it does get busy.
Personally, I prefer to stay in the Jabal Omar area which is newer and less crowded. During Ramadan, the mall is very busy and hard to get in and out of.
Personally what really bothers me is the overpriced hotels which I believe should be more affordable, especially because otherwise, they go empty while people have to walk miles to get to the Kabah. That bothers me more than the mall.
There are so many people who could make use of these rooms if they were not pushed away due to pricing. One room in some places can cost up to £600 per night.
There are plenty of shops and many Western names and brands. I felt that after Covid there were several shops that closed so I hope that now that pilgrims are back they will open again.
Makkah’s construction is not perfect, but making it easier to access with low-cost airlines and the tourist visa will create also the need for more hotels and shopping, recreational spaces for people.
There are currently constructing a new road leading into the Haram area that will have shops, a pedestrian area as well as hotels. It looks really nice on the drawings and I hope it delivers in real life too.
*this article was initially published in 2015. It was updated in 2022 and I will be updating the photos as well once I am in Makkah again insha’Allah. Not much has changed but some stores have closed.