The profane crowding out sacred in Mecca

From the International Herald Tribune: The profane crowding out sacred in Mecca.

Five times a day across the globe, devout Muslims face this city in prayer, focused on a site where they believe the prophet Abraham built a temple to God. The spot is also the place Muslims are expected to visit at least once in their lives.

Now as they gaze here in their mind’s eye, and make the pilgrimage clothed in simple white cotton wraps, they will see something other than the austere black cube known as the Kaaba that occupies the spot. They will also see Starbucks. And Cartier and Tiffany. And H&M and Top Shop.

The Abraj al Bait Shopping Center, one of the largest malls to open in Saudi Arabia, outfitted with flat panel monitors, neon lights, an amusement park ride, fast food restaurants and a lingerie shop, is being built directly across from Islam’s holiest site.

Not everyone considers this progress. [continue]