The pilgrimage to Mecca has always involved hardship and sacrifice, whether months spent travelling on foot through barren valleys and sleeping in the open with no shelter from the elements or stripping oneself of earthly trappings.
But help is at hand for the pilgrim who cannot bear to be without comfort while executing the fifth pillar of Islam.
Raffles, which gave thirsty wanderers the Singapore Sling, is opening a luxury hotel in Mecca offering pilgrims a coffee sommelier, a chocolate room where chefs will prepare bespoke pralines and truffles, and a 24-hour butler service.
Undeterred by restrictions on beautifying oneself during the Hajj, the hotel will also have segregated gyms, beauty parlours, grooming salons and a spa.
Insh’Allah (Allah Willing) one day, The Akh will make the Hajj to the holy land, but I’m afraid that the picture I have in my mind will not materialise.
I can’t understand how a chocolate room and spa will help me achieve spiritual fulfilment or how these amenities comply with the ethos of the hajj, which is about simplicity and humility.
The whole point of the Hajj is to forget about the worldly thoughts and activities and focus on the divine.
The picture above is what the Sauds want the Binladin Company to construct, a hideous super hotel overlooking the Ka’aba.
The landscape of Mecca has undergone a dramatic transformation over the years, homes have been bulldozed, mountains flattened and historic sites razed to provide more hotel rooms and amenities.
The al-Sauds want to make Mecca like Dubai, it is a money-making operation. They destroy ancient buildings because they do not want any history other than their own, they see it as competition. They destroy and dispose of artefacts.
I would go as far as saying that the city’s increasing westernisation was a perversion of the religion, as it encourages activities that were at odds with the spirit of the Hajj.
Development of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina should not come at the expense of religious practice.
Where is the lack of protest from Muslims around the world?
Take Al-Aqsa as an example. Muslims are outraged when Israelis do something in the Old City, but in Mecca things are being systematically destroyed and nobody is raising an eyebrow.