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Abraj Al Bait

Abraj Al-Bait Tower
ابراج البيت
Abraj Al-Bait Towers as seen from Masjid al-Haram in June 2012
General information
Status Complete
Type Mixed use:
Hotel, Residential
Architectural style Postmodern
Location Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Construction started 2004
Opening 2012
Architectural 601 m (1,972 ft)[1]
Tip 601 m (1,972 ft)[1]
Roof 530 m (1,740 ft)
Top floor 558.7 m (1,833 ft)[1]
Observatory 558.7 m (1,833 ft)[1]
Technical details
Material main structural system: reinforced concrete (lower part), steel/concrete composite construction, steel construction (upper part);
cladding: glass, marble, natural stone, carbon-/glass-fibre-reinforced plastic
Floor count 120 (Clock Tower) [1]
Floor area Tower: 310,638 m2 (3,343,680 sq ft)
Development: 1,575,815 m2 (16,961,930 sq ft)[1]
Lifts/elevators 96 (Clock Tower)
Design and construction
Architect Dar Al-Handasah Architects
Structural engineer Dar Al-Handasah
Main contractor Saudi Binladin Group

The Abraj Al-Bait Towers, also known as the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, is a government-owned megatall building complex in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. These towers are a part of the King Abdulaziz Endowment Project that strives to modernize the city in catering to its pilgrims. The central hotel building has the world's largest clock face and is the third tallest building and fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world. The building complex is metres away from the world's largest mosque and Islam's most sacred site, the Masjid al-Haram. The developer and contractor of the complex is the Saudi Binladin Group, the Kingdom's largest construction company.[1] The complex was built after the demolition[2] of the Ajyad Fortress, the 18th-century Ottoman citadel which stood atop a hill overlooking the Grand Mosque. The destruction of the fort in 2002 by the Saudi government sparked Turkish and international outcry.[3]

Abraj Al Bait compared with other tallest buildings in Asia.


  • Description 1
    • List of component towers 1.1
  • Features 2
    • The spire 2.1
    • Construction fire incidents 2.2
  • Controversy 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The tallest tower in the complex stands as the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, with a height of 601 metres (1,972 feet). Currently it is the fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world, surpassing Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, but shorter than the Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, China, the Tokyo Sky Tree in Tokyo, Japan and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The site of the complex is located across the street to the south from an entrance to the Masjid al Haram mosque, which houses the Kaaba. To accommodate worshipers visiting the Kaaba, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers has a large prayer room capable of holding more than 10,000 people. The tallest tower in the complex also contains a five-star hotel, operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, to help provide lodging for the millions of pilgrims that travel to Mecca annually to participate in the Hajj.

In addition, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers has a five-story shopping mall (the Abraj Al Bait Mall) and a parking garage capable of holding over a thousand vehicles. Residential towers house permanent residents while two heliports and a conference center are to accommodate business travelers. In total, up to 100,000 people could be housed inside the towers. The project uses clock faces for each side of the hotel tower. The highest residential floor stands at 450 m (1,480 ft), just below the spires. The clock faces are 43 m × 43 m (141 ft × 141 ft), the largest in the world. The roof of the clocks is 530 m (1,740 ft) above the ground, making them the world's most elevated architectural clocks. A 71-metre-tall (233 ft) spire has been added on top of the clock giving it a total height of 601 m (1,972 ft). The tower also includes an Islamic Museum and a Lunar Observation Center which will also be used to sight the moon during the Holy Months.[4]

The building was planned to be 734 m (2,408 ft) tall in 2006. In 2009, it was published that the final height would be 601 m (1,972 ft). The complex was built by the Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Arabia's largest construction company. The tallest building in the complex (from a height of 450 m (1,480 ft) up until the tip) was designed by the German architect Mahmoud Bodo Rasch and his firm SL Rasch GmbH.[5] The facade was constructed by Premiere Composite Technologies, the clock by German tower clock manufacturer PERROT GmbH & Co. KG Turmuhren und Läuteanlagen.[6] According to the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments, the project cost US$15 billion.[7]

List of component towers

Tower Height Floors Completion
Hotel Tower 601 m (1,972 ft)[1] 120 2012[1]
Hajar 260 m (850 ft) 48 2011
ZamZam 260 m (850 ft) 48 2008
Safa 240 m (790 ft) 42 2007


Comparison of some notable four-face clocks at the same scale.
Top-left: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Bottom-left: Allen-Bradley Clock Tower (previous record holder)
Middle: Abraj Al Bait
Top-right: Palace of Westminster clock tower
Bottom-right: Kremlin Clock

The building is topped by a four-faced clock, visible from 25 kilometres (16 miles) away. The clock is the highest in the world at over 400 m (1,300 ft) above the ground. The clock faces are the largest clock faces in the world, surpassing the Cevahir Mall clock in Istanbul.

Each of the clock's four faces measure 46 m (151 ft) in diameter and are illuminated by 2 million LED lights, with four oriented edges, just above the clock alongside huge Arabic script reading: “Allah is great” on the north and south faces and on the west and east the Quran. Four golden domes on pillars on all the corners are also present. Another 21,000 white and green coloured lights, the same as the Saudi Flag, fitted at the top of the clock, flash to signal Islam's five-times daily prayers, and are visible as far as 30 km (19 mi) away. On special occasions such as new year, 16 bands of vertical lights shoot some 10 km (6.2 mi) up into the sky. The clock's four faces are covered with 98 million pieces of glass mosaics. The Saudi coat of arms is displayed at the centre of each clock behind the dials. The minute hand is 22 m (72 ft) long, while the hour hand is 17 m (56 ft) long.

A viewing deck is located 558 m (1,831 ft) above the ground, right under the crescent. There is also an observatory deck at the base of the clock.

There were rumours [8][9] that the clock would be set to local Mecca Time, in an attempt to replace Greenwich as the prime meridian for global time keeping, but the clock is set to Arabia Standard Time (UTC+03:00).

The spire

The main building is topped by a 93 m (305 ft) spire with 23 m (75 ft) high golden crescent at the top. The spire has the black observation pod at the bottom which contains a lunar gallery, a control tower and the main observation deck.

The crescent was constructed in Dubai by Premier Composite Technology in April 2011. The crescent is made of fiberglass-backed mosaic gold, and it weighs up to 35 tonnes. Peugeot Joseph, the company official, said a team of five engineers and a hundred workers carried out the project, which cost 90 million United Arab Emirates dirham and took three months to build. The company has also constructed the Mecca Clock. The Crescent was divided into 10 parts to move it to Mecca.[10] The crescent was partly assembled on the base of the clock-face to reduce it to 5 parts. Those five parts were then lifted and installed above the spire from 20 June to 6 July 2011.

The minaret and its base have massive loudspeakers which emit prayer calls to a distance of seven km while nearly 21,000 lamps illuminate the surrounding area to a distance of 30 km (19 mi). During occasions like Muslim Eids and new Hijri years, a 16-beam light illuminates an area of a diameter of around 10 km (6 mi) while 21,000 lamps beam white and green lights to a distance of 30 km (19 mi). The light beams are intended to allow deaf persons or Muslims in far areas to know prayer timings in the western parts of Mecca and nearby cities.[11] Yet, despite the claimed need for illumination and awareness of prayer timings in discrete areas and portions around and in Mecca, there are well over 200 existing old mosques in the city; most are frequently attended and therefore well equipped with Muadhins to call the prayer.[12][13]

Construction fire incidents

The Abraj-Al-Bait complex had two fire incidents during construction. The first fire struck the Hajar Tower on 28 October 2008. It took 400 firefighters to put out the fire, which burned for 10 hours, consuming nine floors of the tower.[14] According to eyewitness reports, the blaze erupted shortly after midnight, and spread rapidly because of wood used for construction stored in the premises. Soon, the entire building was engulfed in smoke. Hospitals were put on high alert, but no injuries were reported. A civil defense spokesman said the fire started on the 32nd floor of the Hajar tower.[15]

The second fire struck the Safa tower on 1 May 2009. No deaths or injuries were reported in the blaze which was quickly contained by Civil Defense. Eyewitnesses said the fire broke out soon after Asr prayer while some workers in the building were welding iron rods on wooden scaffoldings. The fire damaged a large part of the under-construction tower. According to Major General Adel Zamzami, director general of Civil Defence in the Mecca province, the fire broke out at the 14th floor and reached up to the 20th.[14]


The construction engendered some controversy as the location chosen for the towers was the historic Ottoman-era Ajyad Fortress, which was demolished to make way for them.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Makkah Clock Royal Tower, A Fairmont Hotel - The Skyscraper Center". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 
  2. ^ "Historic Fortress Destroyed". New York Times. 9 January 2002. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "Historic Makkah fortress demolished". Arab News. 2002-01-09. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Syed Faisal Ali: “Makkah Time a new alternative for GMT” Arab News, 10 August 2010
  5. ^ "Serving the Lord, through the lens". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "Made in Germany geht immer weitere Wege". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Abdullah Al-Shiri: "9 modern architectural wonders of the Mideast" CNN, 22 January 2013
  8. ^ “Giant Mecca clock seeks to call time on Greenwich” Daily Telegraph, 10 August 2010
  9. ^ “Saudis Want 'Mecca Time' to Replace GMT” AOL News, 10 August 2010
  10. ^ الإسم: (25 August 2011). "تصنيع هلال برج ساعة مكة في دبي - البيان". Retrieved 2011-08-30. 
  11. ^ Your name:. "World’s largest gold minaret set up in Saudi". Emirates 24/7. Retrieved 2011-08-30. 
  12. ^ "'"Mecca mosques 'wrongly aligned. BBC News. 5 April 2009. 
  13. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions On Moon-Sighting". Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  14. ^ a b Ibtisam Sheqdar: “Fire damages Makkah tower” Arab News, 1 May 2009
  15. ^ Mariam Al Hakeem: “Makkah hotel fire under investigation” Gulf News, 21 October 2008
  16. ^ ‘Shame of the House of Saud: Shadows over Mecca’, The Independent, 19 April 2006

External links

  • Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel on CTBUH Skyscraper Center
  • Abraj Al Bait Towers on Emporis
  • Hotel Tower entry on Emporis
  • Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel
  • Reshaping Mecca—slide show, The New York Times
  • Specific data and project
  • List of Hotels in Saudi Arabia
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