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New development reshapes Mecca

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- New development in the holy Saudi Arabian city of Mecca that includes a super-size clock tower has upset some devout Muslims.

Mecca, where Mohammed is said to have proclaimed Islam, is off-limits to non-Muslims. A New York Times reporter's account of the construction there was based on the descriptions provided by Muslims who have seen the Royal Mecca Clock Tower -- one of the tallest buildings in the world, and modeled on the much smaller Big Ben in London -- and other luxury high-rise buildings along with rail lines, a shopping center, an 800-room hotel and a much-expanded Grand Mosque.

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Muslims are supposed to make the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetimes. Architect Sami Angawi has founded a center to study planning for the hajj.

"It is the commercialization of the house of God," Angawi told the Times. "The closer to the mosque, the more expensive the apartments. In the most expensive towers, you can pay millions. If you can see the mosque, you pay triple."

The strict Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia may have eased the way for the development, the Times said. Wahabi Muslims regard everything since the age of Mohammed as corrupt, like the Ottoman fort and other old buildings bulldozed for the new development.

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