Royal Mecca Clock Tower is an investment in national pride

Published in Abu Dhabi’s The National, in its Friday Review section. PDF here.

If you were a monarch a century ago, you invested in the “inevitable technical trappings of modernity,” in the words of the Turkish historian Selim Deringil: trains, telegraphs, factories, steamships, world fairs and clock towers, which ordered people around hourly workdays, travel timetables and other benchmarks of modern life. The Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II was no different, and he celebrated his silver jubilee by building clocks: elegant towers in public squares from Izmir to Jaffa. The last Sultan to hold absolute power in Istanbul before being deposed by the Young Turks in 1909, Abdulhamid was a kind of reformer, even if he is dismissed in Turkey as the last despot before constitutionalism and Ataturk.

Abdulhamid’s clock towers were grand for their time – three storeys, made of stone, not too garish. He commissioned over a hundred clock towers throughout the Ottoman Empire as symbols of modernity and projections of Istanbul’s power in the increasingly restive provinces. How would Abdulhamid’s ghost look upon the colossal, seven-tower Abraj al Beit complex underway in Mecca today? Centred on the 600-metre Royal Mecca Clock Tower and its claims to house the world’s largest clock atop the world’s second tallest skyscraper, the project is nothing if not grandiose. But it is also a contradiction: it recalls and, at the same time, seeks to rebuke the era of modernisation and technological development in the late Ottoman Middle East.

Read the rest at The National.


7 thoughts on “Royal Mecca Clock Tower is an investment in national pride

  1. Pingback: Brought to book » Church of Magnetism

  2. Pingback: Royal Mecca Clock Tower is an investment in national pride | Hidden Cities « turkischland

  3. In my opinion as a Muslim, this clock tower is an abomination. Are they so arrogant that they built a structure to tower over God’s house? It’s a crying shame that Makkah is in the hands of people who seem to have no respect for it and no understanding of the deen as it was taught there.

  4. To Amina I AGREE!! 100% SHIRK, SHIRK, SHIRK, The Prophet ( Sallallahu Alaihi wa salam) would have NEVER allowed such a mocery of the house of Ibrahim where the true pious and beleivers of Allah worship. What i see now is the oppurtunity for money, and power and another era of a pre-islamic state in the arab nation back to it’s original ways, what happen’s to the poor and less fortunat people that live around Masjid al-Haram this is Ashame….

  5. Thanks for sharing your views on the clock tower and Mecca’s over-development. There is a an excellent reported piece in a recent New Yorker on the building boom in Mecca and “the transformation of a holy city.” The writer, Basharat Peer, mentions how intrusive the gaudy, outsized clock tower is from below; he purposely lowererd his head when circling the Kaaba to avoid seeing it. “It feels like a scared place is being profaned.”

  6. This is appalling Soviet-Era Russian-Style Kitsch “architecture”. It’s no wonder Mecca is now referred to a HAJ VEGAS!

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