KEEP FOREIFNERS OFF MAKKAH DESIGN

A leading Saudi architect denounced the plans for Makkah city. The criticism, which is shared with other Saudis, is unusual because the project has the blessing of the Saudi monarch.

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A leading Saudi architect denounced the plans for Makkah city. The criticism, which is shared with other Saudis, is unusual because the project has the blessing of the Saudi monarch. Sami Angawi, an expert of Islamic architecture in Makkah and Medina, said he was “surprised and upset” to learn the plans the holiest Islamic city would be redesigned by “outsiders”.  Lord Foster of Thames Bank and Zaha Hadid are among a group of “starchitects” reportedly invited by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to re-envision Makkah, including an extension around the central Haram mosque that would enable it to accommodate up to three million pilgrims. “When you design a mosque, you need to be able to experience it. I feel very confused about such a decision,” Mr Angawi said. A report by the Saudi British Bank, one of the biggest lenders in the kingdom, estimated this year that £15 billion would be invested by foreign and Saudi companies in construction and infrastructure in Makkah by 2012. Homes and hills are to be replaced by about 130 skyscrapers, including the Abraj al-Bait Towers, which is to be one of the biggest buildings in the world. The seven towers will include a 2,000-room hotel, a convention centre big enough for 1,500 people, heliports and a four-storey shopping mall.