Abraj Al Bait is a complex of seven skyscrapers directly overlooking the Kaaba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It is a commercial and residential complex covering about 1,500,000 square meters of land. The tallest of these, the Royal Tower or the Makkah Clock Tower, is the third tallest building in the world and has the largest clock face found anywhere in the world. The clock tower stands 601 meters tall and has 120 floors. This complex is also the heaviest network of buildings ever built and the second most expensive building in the world today. It has become the most recognizable architectural landmark of Saudi Arabia is a part of the kingdom’s efforts at urban modernization.
The skyscrapers cater largely to the huge influx of pilgrims that visit Makkah each year and thus include multiple hotels, including the Fairmont hotel in the Clock Tower, and multiple shopping malls and retail outlets. True to its name, four colossal clock faces are mounted near the top of the tower. These clocks hold the record for both the largest and highest in the world. At night, the clock faces are illuminated by one million LED lights that transform the tower into a green and white beacon. Writing is inscribed above each clock, with the words “God is the Greatest” on the north and south sides, while the Quran adorns the east and west sides. Supposedly these clock faces are visible from 25 kilometers away. The spire of the tower features a spherical observation center at its base. The spire is capped with a shining mosaic gold crescent that weighs 35 metric tons. A number of cultural amenities are present in the upper levels of the tower, including a center for lunar observation and a cosmology museum.
The complex was built upon the site of an 18th century Ottoman fort and citadel that protected the Kaaba centuries ago. This fort and the dirt citadel beneath it were both razed to the ground, by royal decree, to make way for this complex, a decision that was met with some backlash, both domestic and international. However, construction carried on as the project was seen as a vital part of the kingdom’s modernization drive.