MECCA, Saudi Arabia, May 23 (UPI) -- The two largest hotels in the world are presently located in Las Vegas, but Saudi Arabia will take over the top spot in two years -- when the 10,000-room Abraj Kudai hotel is completed.
Modeled on a "traditional desert fortress," the Abraj Kudai complex will reach 2,000 feet into the sky and feature 70 restaurants, 12 separate towers, four helicopter landing pads, a bus station, shopping center and all of the usual refinements -- some of which will be shielded beneath one of the planet's largest domed structures.
Ten of the towers are intended to provide four-star accommodations while the remaining two will offer luxurious five-star amenities, Arabian Business reported.
Five of the hotel's floors are earmarked specifically for the use of the Saudi royal family, hotel executives said. When it's completed, the hotel will stand in the desert city of Mecca as a literal oasis for tourists, businesspersons and worshipers who make a pilgrimage to the holy city at least once a year.
Total cost: $3.5 billion.
"Due to its unparalleled size, height as well as distinguished location, exposure and architectural style, the building appears as a striking landmark with a profoundly modern multifunctional identity relating to both the Saudi locality and the Islamic universality of its expected users," developer Dar Al-Handasah said on its website.
The complex will be funded by the Saudi Ministry of Finance.
"The city is turning into Mecca-hattan," Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the U.K.-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told the Guardian. "Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out."
Mecca, the capital of the Saudi Makkah Region, has experienced a substantial hotel boom in recent years. Two million residents live there, but that number rises every year during the hajj pilgrimage period that's held annually in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah. For the entire year, about 20 million people visit the city.
The city is already home to the world's third-tallest building, the Abraj al-Bait clocktower, which also houses thousands of hotel rooms.
The new hotel isn't viewed by everyone as a good thing for the Islamic holy city. Some see it as a sign that Mecca may be turning into a city more concerned with money than religion.
"These are the last days of Mecca," Alawi said. "The pilgrimage is supposed to be a spartan, simple rite of passage. But it has turned into an experience closer to Las Vegas, which most pilgrims simply can't afford.
"It has made a farce of the whole place."
Las Vegas is currently home to the world's largest hotels -- the Venetian (7,117 rooms) and the MGM Grand (6,852) -- which have occupied those spots since 1999. In fact, 10 of the world's 15 largest hotels are located in the Nevada city.