Thursday, November 11, 2010

Timekeeper of Muslim world

A giant clock on a skyscraper in Islam’s holiest city Makkah began ticking at the start of last Ramadan, amid hopes it will become the Muslim world’s official timekeeper. The Makkah Clock, which is considered the world’s largest, has four faces measuring 43 meters in diameter.

It sits 400 meters up what will be the world’s second-tallest skyscraper and largest hotel, overlooking the city’s Grand Mosque, which Muslims around the world turn to five times a day for prayer. “The Makkah Clock started with the order of King Abdullah ... one minute after midnight on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan 1431H,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

Over 90 million pieces of colored glass mosaic embellish the sides of the clock, which has four faces each bearing a large inscription of the name “Allah”. It is visible from all corners of the city, the state news agency said.

The clock tower is the landmark feature of the seven-tower King Abdulaziz Endowment hotel complex, being built by the Saudi Binladin Group, which will have the largest floor area of any building in the world when it is complete. The residential tower is estimated to cost $3 billion.

The clock is positioned on a 601-meter tower, which will become the second tallest inhabited building in the world. “Because of its position in front of the Grand Mosque the whole Islamic world will refer to Makkah time instead of Greenwich. The Makkah Clock will become a symbol for all Muslims,” said Hashim Adnan, a resident of Jeddah.

The project is part of efforts to modernize the holy city and make it more capable of catering to pilgrims. Around two million Muslims visit the city each year for the annual Haj pilgrimage, a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for able-bodied Muslims, and 3.5 million pilgrims visit Makkah at other times of the year.

The Makkah Clock Royal Tower is the most prestigious hotel in the Middle East. The extensive project, called Abraj Al-Bait, features a five-star Fairmont hotel with over 1,000 guestrooms. The complex also includes a selection of residential offerings as well as retail space, restaurants and extensive convention facilities.

The hotel is the focal point of the iconic Abraj Al-Bait Complex, which is part of the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, whose mandate it is to upgrade the precincts of the Two Holy Mosques.

The complex includes seven towers with a total floor space of 15.6 million square feet and is adjacent to the Grand Mosque. The property joins Fairmont’s worldwide collection of iconic luxury hotels and is an addition to the company’s Middle East and Africa portfolio.

The hotel, a 76-story tower at 577 meters high, will be among the world’s tallest and its unique and distinctive features will ensure a landmark presence.

Many scholars are of the opinion that Makkah Time can — being located in the center of the world — provide the world an alternative to the GMT. At a conference in Doha in 2008, Muslim scholars presented “scientific” arguments that Makkah time is the true global meridian. They said that Makkah is the center of the world.

“Putting Makkah time in the face of Greenwich Mean Time, this is the goal,” said Mohammed Al-Arkubi, general manager of Royal Makkah Tower Hotel.

The Royal Clock is sitting atop the central tower in the Abraj Al-Bait Project, 50 meters opposite the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The clock will be visible from 17 km away at night and 11 to 12 km away during the day. A German-owned company, Premiere Composite Technologies, has designed the clock.

Sources said that the world’s largest clock — six times larger than London’s Big Ben — the project includes a Lunar Observation Center and an Islamic Museum. While the Royal Clock will announce daily prayers, the Lunar Observation Center and Islamic Museum will serve to protect the heritage for future generations. The observatory will also be used to sight the moon during the holy months. On special occasions, 16 bands of vertical lights will shoot some 10 km up into the sky. ArabNews

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