Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic religion and the birthplace of the prophet Mohamed. Located just off Saudi Arabia’s western coast, all Muslims are required to visit at least once in their life if they are physically able to. With air travel becoming easier, the number of pilgrims has been rising rapidly over the last few decades, with a record number of 3 million people visiting Mecca simultaneously during the 2012 Hajj. More recently, visa regulations have been made more strict to keep the situation under control.

In this episode, we discuss with various experts how this rising number of pilgrims is fueling a radical makeover of the city. While Mecca has always been changing and under construction, the current developments are of an unprecedented scale. What does Mecca’s radical makeover look like? Who is profiting from these developments and what does it mean for the city’s spiritual character? What does the current building craze mean for older buildings, and what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the city’s informal settlements?

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