World's largest clock to begin ticking in Mecca



Muslims around the world could be setting their watches to a new time soon when the world's largest clock begins ticking on top of a soaring skyscraper in Islam's holiest city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia hopes the four faces of the new clock, which will loom over Mecca's Grand Mosque from what is expected to be the world's second tallest building, will establish Mecca as an alternative time standard to the Greenwich median.

The clock is targeted to enter service with a three-month trial period in the first week of the holy month of Ramadan on or about August 12, according to the Saudi state news agency SPA. It boasts four glimmering 46 metre-across faces of high-tech composite tiles, some laced with gold, sitting more than 400 metres over the Holy Haram compound. The tower's height will reach 601 metres, SPA said. On its website, Premiere Composite, which is responsible for cladding the top section, including a shimmering spire topped by a golden crescent moon, puts the planned height at 590 metres.

That would make it the world's second tallest building - ahead of Taiwan's 509 metre Taipei 101, but well behind Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the 828 metre skyscraper inaugurated in January. Some 250 "highly qualified Muslim workers" were completing welding work on the clock's frame, SPA said. More than six times larger in diameter than London's famed Big Ben, the clock faces, with the Arabic words "In the Name of Allah" in huge lettering underneath and will be lit with two million LED lights.

Some 21,000 white and green coloured lights, fitted at the top of the clock, will flash to as far as 30 kilometres to signal Islam's mandatory five-times daily prayers. On special Muslim occasions, 16 bands of vertical lights will shoot some 10 kilometres up into the sky. "Everyone is interested to see the clock, despite the lack of sufficient information about it, and its mechanism," said Mecca resident Hani al Wajeeh.

"We in Mecca hope to be the world's central time zone, and not just have a clock to look at, to show off," he said. The developer of the massive seven-tower Abraj al Bait complex had kept the details of the clock a secret, but it is visibly in place now, adorned with the green crossed sword and palm symbol of the Saudi state. Mohammed al Arkubi, the manager of the Royal Mecca Clock Tower Hotel in the building below, said the installation of the clock, its faces made by the German-owned Dubai company, Premiere Composite Technologies, has been "a huge operation."

The clock reflects a goal by some Muslims to replace the 126-year-old Universal Time standard - originally called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) - with Mecca mean time. At a conference in Doha in 2008, Muslim clerics and scholars presented "scientific" arguments that Mecca time is the true global meridian. They said that Mecca is the centre of the world and that the Greenwich standard was imposed by the West in 1884.

Big does not begin to describe the Abraj al Bait complex just across the street from the south gate of the Grand Mosque, the Muslim world's most sacred site. Built by a government-controlled fund, the complex sits seven huge towers atop a massive podium. Six are between 42 and 48 stories, and in the middle is the clock tower, appearing nearly twice as tall as the others. Moreover, the entire complex, with 3,000 hotel rooms and apartments, a five-story shopping centre and gigantic prayer and conference halls, will give it 1.5 million square metres of floor space, according to architects and construction industry reports.

It will tie Dubai International Airport's terminal three for the world's largest building by floor space. The complex will sport three top-class hotels, the Fairmont, Raffles and Swiss Hotel. It will also have hundreds of luxury apartments, most of them designed to have a direct view of the Grand Mosque. The project is part of the Saudi government's plan to develop Mecca to be able to receive as many as 10 million hajj Pilgrims every year, up from the current three million capacity.

That is necessary to accommodate a rapidly growing global population of Muslims, who have a duty to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetimes, if possible. At the peak of the hajj, according to architect Dar al Handasah, the complex should accommodate 65,000 people. The clock will be the focus. Elevators will take visitors up to a huge viewing balcony just underneath the faces, and also a four-story astronomical observatory and Islamic museum.

"The construction of the biggest clock in the world in the purest spot on the earth is a dream-come-true for Muslims," said Atif Felmban, who lives in the city. "Before, we heard and saw famous clocks in the West. But today we can as Muslims be proud of this giant project," said Ahmed Haleem, an Egyptian living in the Muslim holy city. "I might leave Mecca before the opening ceremony for the clock. But I will be keen to follow it and set my watch to it as soon as it is working," Mr Haleem said.

"It means an honour for a place, and time for me," he said. * AFP

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

The Crown season 5

Stars: Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Jonny Lee Miller, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki, Salim Daw and Khalid Abdalla

Written by: Peter Morgan

Rating: 4/5 stars

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6

Power: 540hp at 6,500rpm

Torque: 600Nm at 2,500rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed auto

Kerb weight: 1580kg

Price: From Dh750k

On sale: via special order

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

Founders: Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, Turki Bin Zarah and Abdulmohsen Albabtain.

Based: Riyadh

Offices: UAE, Vietnam and Germany

Founded: September, 2020

Number of employees: 70

Sector: FinTech, online payment solutions

Funding to date: $116m in two funding rounds  

Investors: Checkout.com, Impact46, Vision Ventures, Wealth Well, Seedra, Khwarizmi, Hala Ventures, Nama Ventures and family offices

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

CHELSEA SQUAD

Arrizabalaga, Bettinelli, Rudiger, Christensen, Silva, Chalobah, Sarr, Azpilicueta, James, Kenedy, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Saul, Barkley, Ziyech, Pulisic, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Werner, Havertz, Lukaku. 

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

West Asia Premiership

Dubai Hurricanes 58-10 Dubai Knights Eagles

Dubai Tigers 5-39 Bahrain

Jebel Ali Dragons 16-56 Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Tips on buying property during a pandemic

Islay Robinson, group chief executive of mortgage broker Enness Global, offers his advice on buying property in today's market.

While many have been quick to call a market collapse, this simply isn’t what we’re seeing on the ground. Many pockets of the global property market, including London and the UAE, continue to be compelling locations to invest in real estate.

While an air of uncertainty remains, the outlook is far better than anyone could have predicted. However, it is still important to consider the wider threat posed by Covid-19 when buying bricks and mortar. 

Anything with outside space, gardens and private entrances is a must and these property features will see your investment keep its value should the pandemic drag on. In contrast, flats and particularly high-rise developments are falling in popularity and investors should avoid them at all costs.

Attractive investment property can be hard to find amid strong demand and heightened buyer activity. When you do find one, be prepared to move hard and fast to secure it. If you have your finances in order, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Lenders continue to lend and rates remain at an all-time low, so utilise this. There is no point in tying up cash when you can keep this liquidity to maximise other opportunities. 

Keep your head and, as always when investing, take the long-term view. External factors such as coronavirus or Brexit will present challenges in the short-term, but the long-term outlook remains strong. 

Finally, keep an eye on your currency. Whenever currency fluctuations favour foreign buyers, you can bet that demand will increase, as they act to secure what is essentially a discounted property.