My Mecca Is Taller than Yours

Check out these crazy photos of the Mecca Clock Royal Tower now under construction. Upon completion, this tower will be the second tallest building in the world, at around 1,900 feet high.

The building will be host to a lunar observatory, an Islamic heritage museum, a mechanism for the call to prayer, a gigantic clock face keeping “Mecca Time,” and a hotel for weary hajjis with courtside views of the Kaaba.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned that this gigantic tower is literally 50 meters away from the holiest Muslim site in the world?

In a way, the desire to build a tower so high that it puts all other structures to shame is a basic human instinct. This is a classic display of the “my tower is bigger than yours” game, and this tower seems to be winning. There are already comparisons buzzing about how much bigger this clock is than Big Ben (for the record, the Mecca Tower is six times bigger, and could indeed eat Big Ben and its wimpy Greenwich Mean Time for breakfast and still have room for dessert).

Even though this fact will earn its builders serious bragging rights, I find the tower’s juxtaposition to the Kaaba so ironic. I understand that the Saudis are trying to stake their claim in the world, both architecturally and in the sense that this building will essentially represent Islam. But what message does it send when the holiest site in the world cowers in the shadows of a showy modern structure? I’m not an authority on the matter by any means, but I think the glitz and glam of a new building project should be secondary to what is essentially the heart of the religion, however modest it is by appearance.

Jessica Miller graduated from Barnard College in 2009 with a BA in religion, and is psyched to finally have an answer to the question, “so what does one do with a religion major?” Her writing has appeared on Jewcy, Mashable, and the Huffington Post.  In her spare time she can be found sailing, playing music, and blogging about boomerangs.