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Monday, 15 November 2010

Mecca makeover: how the hajj has become big business for Saudi Arabia

For those who thought that Saudia Arabia was only for those interested in performing their Islamic duties in the form of the Hajj, they might be surprised to find out that this has become big business these days. An estimated 2.5 million Muslims now begin the annual hajj pilgrimage, but the total number of tourists to Mecca and Medina, home to the prophet Muhammad, is expected to rise from about 12 million to almost 17 million by 2025.

In terms of tourism in the kingdom, scuba divers tend to flock to places on the Red Sea like Jeddah, but tourism isn't really that well developed other than religious torusism sector which is seeing a huge boom. Hotels have been springing up to cater for this increase in demand.

"The level of pampering offered by some of the hotels – Asprey toiletries, 24-hour butler service, $270 chocolate selections – may jar with the ethos of sacrifice, simplicity and humility of hajj but it is not a contradiction felt by the customers snapping up royal suites at $5,880 a night, eating gelato or milling around hangar-like lobbies of polished marble in their Hajj clothing of bedsheets, towels or burqas. Raffles is reporting 100% occupancy for it 211 rooms."

I guess we all need to pamper ourselves from time to time!

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