0900 GMT May 06, 2021
The work is part of a multibillion-pound construction project in the holy city, which has already resulted in the destruction of hundreds of historical monuments.
The project, which began several years ago, aims to expand Masjid Al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, to cater to the millions of pilgrims who make their way to the holy city each year for the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are obliged to make at least once, Independent reported.
Mecca is the holiest city in Islam because of its link to the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and because it is the site of Ka'ba, a cube-shaped building made from black granite and said to have been built by Prophet Abraham (PBUH).
The Grand Mosque is built around it and Muslims face toward it when they pray.
Many have looked on aghast at the destruction of hundreds of historical buildings and monuments to make way for the Grand Mosque’s expansion.
According to the Persian Gulf Institute, based in Washington, up to 95 percent of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings have been destroyed, to be replaced with luxury hotels, apartments and shopping malls.
"Last week, the remaining 500-year-old Ottoman columns, commemorating Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) ascent to heaven, were destroyed," Dr Irfan Alawi of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Independent.
He also said the House of Mawlid, thought to be where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in AD 570, is likely to be destroyed before the end of the year.
The new royal palace is to be built for King Abdullah, the formal custodian of the mosque, for his visits to Mecca. Plans for the building, seen by The Independent, include the site of the House of Mawlid, which has recently been closed to pilgrims.
The plans have been verified by an independent source who added that many critics of the construction process are unwilling to speak publicly for fear of being punished by the regime.
The destruction of historical sites was defended recently by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh.
According to Press TV, Iran’s English-language news organization, the Saudi mufti said the demolitions were necessary and that the nation should thank the government for the work, which is increasing the capacity of the mosque.
Dr Alawi, one of the few voices to publicly oppose the destruction, claimed that religious police are posted outside the library to prevent worshipping.
“The site of the Prophet’s birthplace has again come under imminent threat of being permanently forgotten under concrete and marble,” he said.
“Now that hajj is finished, the 24-hour construction work has started again. They have finished the expansion on one side of the mosque. The royal palace, which will be five times bigger than the current royal palace, is to be built into the side of a mountain and will overlook the mosque.
“Between now and December, the library and the rooms of the House of Mawlid are likely be built over. It’s inevitable that it will happen.
“It will be history. It will be gone. We are saying, ‘Let us excavate that house and preserve these rooms that are still there'."