Mecca, a 'VIP' pilgrimage in five-star hotels
Extra-luxury religious tourism is growing in conjunction with the Hajj. Some rooms also cost $ 1000 a night and for the period of the largest pilgrimage, can see up to $ 25,000 being spent per person. Structures overlooking the Kaaba in greatest demand. Analysts and experts speak of a phenomenon linked to religious tourism.
Mecca (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The major annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj), which has just ended and involves more than 2.5 million Muslims worldwide every year, has recently (even) become a "VIP" experience. An "extra-luxury" religious journey characterized by five-star hotels and rooms with direct views of the Kaaba, the most important holy place for Islam, which attracts an ever-increasing number of "wealthy clients" willing to spenda lot of money.
A billion dolar business that, according to experts, is turning Mecca into the capital of "premium" religious tourism. Proof of this are the sumptuously furnished hotels, with gleaming marbles, panels in precious wood and large chandeliers that rise from the ceilings.
In one of the three most luxurious structures of the holy city for Muslims, the main strength is proudly declaimed: three prayer rooms, overlooking the Kaaba. "Guests - said a manager of the facility - dream of being able to observe the Kaaba 24 hours a day". A room on the 29th floor is packed with men who pray with their eyes turned towards the ancient building in the center of the mosque, while hundreds of thousands of people circle it in the crucial phases of the Hajj.
Analysts and experts recall that, in recent years, luxury and "VIP" hotels have sprouted like mushrooms in Mecca, especially skyscrapers near the Great Mosque, which can offer a "panoramic" view. The structures are fully booked during the period of the greatest pilgrimage and are already sold out for next year. An assault that goes beyond the days of the Hajj, but also embraces the previous and subsequent period.
During the high season the rooms can even cost over a thousand dollars a night. And to make room for these extra-luxury structures (and modern buildings that characterize the modern Mecca landscape) up to 95% of ancient and historic structures have been demolished.
It should also be remembered that, in the face of these exclusive hotels, most pilgrims stay in basic dormitories, sometimes even without sanitary facilities.
Nevertheless, the tour operators that offer "vip" packages for an "exceptional pilgrimage" with rooms dominating the Kaaba at the price of thousands of dollars are constantly increasing. In some cases the total cost for housing can reach 25 thousand dollars.
The scholar Luc Chantre, author of several books on contemporary Mecca, states that "since 1930, pilgrimage has increasingly become a phenomenon of religious tourism". The growth of infrastructures has been accompanied by the development of "non-religious activities, such as shops, cultural tourism and the display of natural areas".