I can’t think of a more appropriate place to build the world’s biggest clock tower. Muslims are encouraged to perform their formal prayers five times a day ON TIME, a task that has proven often challenging for those of us who have to keep it, but with this 601m high, 40m wide, four faced, visible from almost every corner in the holy mosque structure; it is kind of difficult to come up with a valid excuse for showing up late for prayer
The tower is part of the “Abraj AL Bait Complex” . It includes 5 star hotels and a multistory shopping center. Pretty indulgent if you ask me; compared to the task in hand if you are in Mekkah for Haj or Umrah! Nevertheless my stay at Al Marwa Rayhaan Hotel by Rotana, which is part of the same complex, was very convenient in terms of the short walking distance to King Abdul Aziz Gate. I don’t think my mother would’ve made it on time to the Haram for any prayer if we had stayed any farther.
I have no complains myself; how could I when our breakfast view every morning was this?:
When all was said and done, my sister and I were often caught red-handed treating ourselves to the inescapable guilty pleasures of the city; eating and shopping. When it comes to eating; we simply surrendered. Shopping though was like one of those chores your parents made you do just because you lived under their roof. You hated it when it sounded like they were ordering you around, but once everyone was gone and you had the entire house to yourself you cranked up the music and danced on the sofas (Ok that was just my awkward childhood). In this case my mother was not going home without a gift for every single person in her neighborhood. I wish I lived in her neighborhood
The city made a trade center by pilgrims more than hundreds of years ago still has its commercial spirit fairly intact. It has a lot to offer for those who are interested in sampling its specialties and possess a big appetite for bargaining. I am certainly not the bargaining type, which is why I love my sister. That girl (I bet) can hold her breath under water for as long as it takes to drawn a fish. She is able to bargain fiercely and everlastingly until the shop keeper would possibly pay her just to see her walk away. It was a long evening at the market for us; here is what I thought was our best buys amongst other things:
Zam Zam Water: my mother suggested we all up our daily intake until “quote”: our bones were soaked in it. We sure drank up our share of bliss and purity and I brought few extra gallons to gift away. The blessed water is only available in Mekkah and pilgrims are allowed to carry a limited amount out of the country for personal use
Dates are a customary hospitality item in all GCC countries, but The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia produces some of the finest dates in the world. Bedouins swear they can survive for many days of travelling in the desert on nothing but a calorie supercharged diet of dates and camel milk. For us city tenants it is a gastronomic luxury that remains an integral element of our traditional cuisine.
When short on original ideas or on a rush; dates always fit in for a great gift from Arabia. Just imagine how ecstatic I was to find out that I’ve arrived in dates’ heaven. There were numerous types and hundreds of flavors. If you have ever mistaken dates for a boring fruit that can onlybe served dry, think again. Every food store, specialized dates retailer or even street side vendor that sold it had yet few more options for me to choose from. I tried chocolate dates, white chocolate dates, dark chocolate dates, date cookies, Mamool, Ajwa, dates with all sorts of nuts, dates cream, ….you get the idea
When offered to a guest, dates are normally washed down with Arabic coffee, which is known to be light in flavor yet quite strong in effect. It is usually flavored with cardamom which gives it a lovely rich aroma. I am more of a COSTA girl but I do appreciate a good cup of Gahwa every now and then
Multiple stores carrying a wealth of interesting religious and literary titles available in different languages and forms (audio, DVD, digital). I grabbed as many as won’t weigh too heavy in my luggage as I fly back home
Kohl (Authentic Arabic Eyeliner):
Until the next super journey