The Abraj Al-Bait Towers – Saudi Arabia, Asia
The Abraj Al-Bait Towers, also known as the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower, is a building complex in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The complex holds several world records, including the tallest hotel in the world, the tallest clock tower in the world, the world’s largest clock face, and the world’s largest building floor area. The complex’s hotel tower will become the second tallest building in the world upon its completion in 2011, surpassed only by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The building complex is meters 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.
The tallest tower in the complex stands as the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, and the tallest and largest hotel in the world, with a height of 601 metres (1,972 feet). It is the fourth tallest building under construction. Upon its official opening the structure would surpass Dubai International Airport having the largest floor area of any structure in the world with 1,500,000 m2 (16,150,000 sq ft) of floorspace. It will also surpass the Emirates Park Towers in Dubai as the world’s tallest hotel.
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. In order to start construction, the historic Ottoman Ajyad Fortress had to be first completely demolished. To accommodate worshipers visiting the Kaaba, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers will have a large prayer room capable of holding more than 10,000 people. The tallest tower in the complex will also contain a seven-star hotel to help provide lodging for the millions of pilgrims that travel to Mecca annually to participate in Hajj.
In addition, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers will have a four-story shopping mall and a parking garage capable of holding over a thousand vehicles. Residential towers will 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 will use clock faces for each side of the hotel tower. The highest residential floor will be at 450 metres (1,480 feet), just below the clocks. The clock faces will be 43 × 43 m (141 × 141 ft), the largest in the world. The roof of the clocks will be 530 metres (1,740 feet) above the ground, making them the world’s most elevated architectural clocks. A 71 metres (233 feet) tall spire will be added on top of the clock giving it a total height of 601 metres (1,972 feet), which will make it the second tallest building in the world when completed, surpassing Taipei 101 in Taiwan. The tower will also include an Islamic Museum and a Lunar Observation Center which will also be used to sight the moon during the Holy Months.
Building was planned to be 485 meters tall in 2006. In 2009 it was published that the final height will be 601 meters. The complex is being built by the Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Arabia’s largest construction company. The clock tower is being designed by the German company Premiere Composite Technologies, the clock by the Swiss engineering firm Straintec. According to the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments, the project will cost $2 billion
The hotel tower is topped by a four-faced clock, visible from more than 25 kilometres (16 miles) away, which is the largest clock in the world. The clock will dwarf London’s Big Ben, once the largest four-faced clock in the world, as well as the current title holder, the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The dials are more than five times greater in area. The clock’s face is also bigger than the current world champion at the Cevahir Mall clock in Istanbul, which has a 36-metre (118-foot) face with 3-metre-high (9.8-foot) digits set in the transparent roof of the shopping complex.
Each of the clock’s four faces is 46 metres (151 feet) in diameter and will be illuminated by 2 million LED lights, alongside huge Arabic script reading: “Allah is the Greatest”. Another 21,000 white and green colored lights, fitted at the top of the clock, will flash to signal Islam’s five-times daily prayers, and will be visible as far as 29 kilometres (18 miles) away. On special occasions, 16 bands of vertical lights will shoot some 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) up into the sky. The clock’s four faces will be covered with 98 million pieces of glass mosaics. The Saudi coat of arms is displayed at the center of each clock behind the dials.
An observatory deck is planned at the base of the clock. Elevators will take visitors up to a viewing balcony just beneath the faces.
The Mecca Clock Tower is topped by a 93 m tall spire and a crescent. The spire will contain a lunar gallery, a control tower and an observation pod. Over the spire is the world’s largest golden minaret including the 23 m tall golden crescent.
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 tons. Peugeot Joseph, the company official, said a team of five engineers and a hundred workers carried out the project, which cost 90 million dirhams, and it took three months to build it. The company has also constructed the Mecca Clock. The Crescent was divided into 10 parts to move it to Mecca. 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 that will emit prayer calls to a distance of seven km while nearly 21,000 lamps will illuminate the surrounding area to a distance of 30 km. During occasions like Muslim Eids and new Hijri years, a 16-beam light will illuminate an area of a diameter of around 10 km while 21,000 lamps will beam white and green lights to a distance of 30 km. 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.
The Abraj-Al-Bait complex has seen 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. 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 defence spokesman said the fire started on the 32nd floor of Hajar Tower.
The second fire struck Safa tower on 1 May 2009. No deaths or injuries were reported in the blaze that 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 Defense in the Mecca province, the fire broke out at the 14th floor and reached up to the 20th floor of the tower.