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'World's largest clock', symbol of Mecca's 'Manhattan'

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'World's largest clock', symbol of Mecca's 'Manhattan'


Thousands of Muslim pilgrims are arriving in the holy city of Mecca for this year’s Hajj, which begins on Monday.

Many are camping out in Saudi Arabia before heading to Mount Arafat, the climax of the annual pilgrimage.

With continued uncertainty over the future of the Iraqi government, the thoughts of visiting Iraqi visitors are with events back home.

“I send a message to our Iraqi leaders to agree among themselves, to put their differences aside and to soberly serve the Iraqi people,” said Iraqi pilgrim Sami Al Mamoni.

Pilgrims visiting Mecca can now see what is thought to be the world’s largest clock, on top of a skyscraper overlooking the Grand Mosque.

An array of new five-star hotels has sprung up, dwarfing the religious site. A new metro will begin operating on Sunday.

“As Muslims and Arabs we are full of faith, and we are proud of everything that enhances Muslims and Arab countries,” said one woman, visiting from Tunisia.

The Saudi government says it expects the number of pilgrims to rise by 20 percent this year.

The building frenzy to cater for them has been criticised. An Islamic scholar based in London said there was no reason for Mecca to look like Manhattan.

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