With just a few weeks away for the annual Hajj, the holiest site in Islam has undergone a huge transformation, one that has divided opinion among Muslims globally. Today many call the city of Makkah, Las Vegas.
Once a dusty desert town struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of pilgrims arriving for the annual Hajj, the city today is a modern, futuristic vision of steel, glass and concrete skyscrapers, shopping malls and luxury hotels.
Makkah is a metropolis built on the proceeds of enormous oil wealth that showcases the national pride of the Saudi royals. However, growing numbers of citizens, particularly those living in the two holy cities of Makkah and Medina, look on aghast as the nation's archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania.
A number of prominent Saudi archaeologists and historians are speaking up in the belief that the opportunity to save Saudi Arabia's remaining historical sites is closing fast. Most are fearful of discussing their fears openly because of the risks associated with criticising the policies of the authoritarian monarchy.
With the exceptions of Turkey and Iran, fellow Muslim nations have largely held their tongues for fear of diplomatic fallout and restrictions on their citizens' pilgrimage visas. Western archaeologists are silent, out of fear, that the few sites they are allowed access to, will be closed to them.
Dr Irfan al-Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation has fought in vain to protect his country's historical sites from the cultural vandalism.
Renowned Saudi expert on the region's Islamic architecture, Sami Angawi, is equally concerned. "This is an absolute contradiction to the nature of Makkah and the sacredness of the house of God. Both [Makkah and Medina] are historically almost finished. You do not find anything except skyscrapers.”
Makkah has become a playground for the rich where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality instead of a place where the Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) insisted all Muslims would be equal. A skyward glance from the precincts of the holy Kaaba reveals the architectural bling as the Royal Makkah Clock Tower soars over the surrounding Grand Mosque and the development of skyscrapers that will house five-star hotels and exclusive stores in shopping malls for the minority of pilgrims rich enough to afford them.
Ordinary Meccans live in fear of losing their family town houses that make up much of what remains of the old city.