Scratch Mecca off your list of places to visit. The House of Mawlid in the holy site of Mecca, believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad in AD 570, is planning to be destroyed and converted into a royal palace for Saudi King Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz. Muslims are religiously required to complete the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
“The site of the Prophet’s birthplace has again come under imminent threat of being permanently forgotten under concrete and marble,” said Dr. Irfan Alawi, the executive director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation.
Project officials claim the destruction is part of a multi-billion-dollar scheme to expand al-Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Grand Mosque in the West, in an attempt to welcome more pilgrims and visitors.
The country has come under fire for the knocking down of hundreds of historic Islamic sites. Just a week ago, Saudi officials demolished the historic 500-year-old columns commemorating Prophet Mohammad’s ascent to heaven. The Institute for Gulf Affairs reported that an estimated 95 percent of the Mecca structures, built nearly a millennium back, have been destroyed and turned into shopping malls, apartments, and luxury hotels.
The House of Mawlid, which is said to be the building that Prophet Muhammad was born in, has already began to be worked on following the conclusion of the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage. The new royal palace will belong to the Saudi King, and is believed to be five times larger than the present structure once completed.
“Now that Hajj is finished, the 24-hour construction work has started again. They have finished the expansion on one side of the mosque (Masjid al-Haram). The royal palace, which will be five times bigger than the current royal palace, is to be built into the side of a mountain and will overlook the mosque,” Alawi said.
Other critics of the construction plan are too afraid of the regime to voice their opinion in public, The Independent reports.
The Arab country’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, recently defended the demolitions, insisting their necessity in raising the capacity of the mosque.
Earlier in September, the destruction of Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Saudi Arabia had been proposed. The alleged plan is to destroy chambers around Prophet Muhammad’s burial site, and take his body to another grave.