Saudis Want 'Mecca Time' to Replace GMT
But Saudi Arabia wants to change that. It's building what it calls the largest clock in the world, atop the second-largest skyscraper in the world, in the Islamic holy city of Mecca -- in hopes of replacing GMT with "Mecca Time."
The clock dwarfs London's Big Ben, with four huge faces each about 130 feet in diameter and inscribed with the Arabic words "God is greatest." Only one of the clock's faces has been completed so far, covered with 98 million pieces of glass mosaics. Details were first released by the Saudi official news agency and picked up by several foreign media.
It's still under construction atop a nearly 2,000-foot-tall building overlooking Mecca's Grand Mosque, the point where Muslims around the world turn toward during their five daily prayers. Millions of faithful visit the site as part of the Muslim hajj voyage and other pilgrimages each year.
"We in Mecca hope to be the world's central time zone, and not just have a clock to look at, to show off," Mecca resident Hani al-Wajeeh told Agence France-Presse.
"Putting Mecca time in the face of Greenwich Mean Time, this is the goal," Mohammed Al-Arkubi, general manager of Royal Makkah Tower Hotel, told the Arab News, a Saudi newspaper.
An observatory deck is planned for the base of the clock, which will also be topped with a 75-foot wide golden crescent moon hoisted on a spire 200 feet above the clock. From there projectors will send 15 beams of light streaming up into the sky. The tower will be visible from more than 16 miles away, and the light beams beyond that.
A three-month test of the clock's precision is due to begin today, at the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The project cost about $800 million, designed by German and Swiss engineers and is being built by the Saudi Binladen Group, a construction company originally founded by Osama bin Laden's father. The al-Qaida leader split from his family decades ago, and has criticized their wealth and connections with the Saudi government, which he considers corrupt and apostate.