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Makkah Clock Royal Tower

Mega Big Ben in the desert

Elisabeth Lang, eTN  Nov 25, 2010

(eTN) - With the end of Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the Saudi Press Agency has said a record number of over 3.4 million over five days of the pilgrimage came to Mecca.

As one of the pillars of Islamic faith, the spiritual journey of Hajj must be carried out once in their lifetime by any Muslim who has the ability to do so to visit the Holy City of Makkah, which lies inland 73 kilometers east of Jeddah.

For wealthy pilgrims, there is a new unreavealed luxury. Mecca has a brand new landmark. Next to the holiest place in all of Islam and a few steps away from the Mashid Al Haaram Mosque and the Holy Ka’aba, Islam’s most sacred site, the Makkah Clock Royal Tower was opened just before Hajj. It is a 40-meter clock tower whose four facades are visible from 17 kilometers away and is five times larger than Big Ben in London. This new clock tower will announce daily prayers to the Muslim World through amplifiers, reaching a radius of 7 kilometers.

The Makkah Clock Royal Tower, and a Fairmont Hotel, is the tallest concrete building in the world, with 76 storys reaching 577 meters and housing 857 rooms and suites and is also the very first hotel in Holy Mecca with a spa and beauty salon.

Within the hotel, two prayer rooms can hold nearly 5,000 worshippers and dozens of elevators are ready to whisk them through to the Al Masjid al Haram Mosques for prayers. But there is more: a Lunar Observatory Center and an Islamic Museum.

Mr. Mohammad Arcobi, Vice President & Managing Director, FRHI MAKKAH, expressed his joy and pride in opening the hotel in Makkah and commented: “This event is a[n] enormous opportunity to provide a new amenity to Muslim pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. We are honored to offer execeptional services to Holy Land pilgrims.”

The hotel is a center of the prominent Abraj Al Bait Complex developed by Saudi BinLadin Corporation in the development of King Abdal Aziz Empowerment, with an outdoor dinning terrace ovrelooking the mosque, Al Hasjid Al Haram. Chris Cahill, president of Fairmont Hotels, said in a press conference that the hotel underlines the importance of the strategic location of the Middle East.

In London - famous as Europe's capital of 5-star hotel openings - the legendary Hotel Savoy, which has been undergoing one of the most ambitious restorations in British history, reopened last month after a 220-million British pounds refurbishment that took nearly three years. In the presence of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdoul Aziz; Kingdom Holding Company; his wife, Princess Ameerah; Prince Charles, and whole bunch of the rich and famous, the hotel was opened.

We found it difficult to book a table in the Waterfront Restaurant prior to January 2011. It was here where famous hospitality masters - Manager Cesar Ritz and Chef Escoffier - wrote history. An opulent Arabic touch has been added to London's iconic hotel, putting back the glamour under the Fairmont umbrella. The 1889 Edwardian building that stands on the Strand next to the Savoy Theatre, has a new art-deco-styled block with river views and is connected by a bridge called the Savoy Way, and the new Beaufort Bar which has 40,000 GBP worth of golden leafing in its niches is simply stunning.

But there other Fairmont hotels in Europe with a less expensive and less extensive facelift - take, for instance, the 45-million euro refurbishment of the Monte Carlo, with spectacular 360-degree views of the principality of Monaco.

It was 1975 when Princess Grace inaugurated the opening of this new hotel, calling it at the time, the Loews Monte Carlo. The completion of this convention resort gave a new dimension to tourism in Monaco. That was a long time ago, but still just within the last century. After many changes, the former Monte Carlo Grand Hotel was then bought in 2004 by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and its partners the Halifax Bank of Scotland and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Kingdom Hotel Investments) as an investment in the key luxury hotel market. The purchase of this hotel became their first establishment in Europe.

The hotel is in a prime location overlooking the Mediterranean, with 602 rooms, suites, and residences on one the most privileged places on the French Riviera, partially sitting on 15-meter pillars that soar above the Mediterranean Sea.

After a spectacular renovation costing 46 million euros, the former Grand Hotel Monte Carlo is located on the most famous hairpin turn of the Grand Prix circuit. Due to its vicinity to Italy, it is located in one of the key markets for leisure travel. ”Italians love [to] come here in their Ferraris," said Claudia Batthyany, Director of Communication, and business travelers mainly coming from UK – one of the strongest markets.


The Montreux Palace Hotel - rebranded to Fairmont Le Montreux Palace - joined the collection of landmark hotels owned by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Group.
Raffles Amrita Wellness has a new identity and is rebranded to Willow Stream Spa, a Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Spa.

The multi-million renovation included public areas, 3 conference rooms, the brasserie, and over 100 guestrooms and suites. In the newly-refurbished guestrooms and suites, classical architectural details have been restored and an emphasis has been placed on the space and light afforded by uninterrupted views of Lake Geneva.


After a two-year renovation, Hamburg's glittering Fairmont Vierjahreszeiten is ready for the Christmas season with the lighting of the traditional huge Christmas tree on November 26 in the middle of Hamburg's inner Alster Lake, in front of the hotel. The event will be similar to the tree lighting at Rockefeller Centre in New York, only this tree lighting will take place in northern Germany.

All 156 rooms and suites have been renovated and present themselves in an incredibly young design with attention to detail. The cuisine is spectacular. Haerlin Restaurant is one of the leading gourmet restaurants in Germany with 17 points Gault Millau and one Michelin star. Guests may enjoy the unique view over Hamburg's inner Alster Lake while they dine. “But it would be nice to have more guests from oversas," said Judith Fuchs-Eckhoff, Director of Sales and Marketing, “Right now the overseas guests make up 20% percent of occupancy.”


Golfers can enjoy the privilege of staying at the Fairmont St. Andrews, beloved by kings and queens. St. Andrews is the home of golf and the beginning of a long royal affair with a happy ending wedding next year. But no golf destination can offer the storied past of the St. Andrews, which has beckoned golfers for over 600 years.

The refurbishment of the breathtaking coastal estate cost less than in other places: 17 Mio British pounds – which seems like a bargain – but then it is Scotland. Golfers can tee-off at the new 18-hole championship Torrance course. This course was designed by Ryder Cup Captain, Sam Torrance. Nearby St. Andrews Links Golf Academy offers state-of-art and internationally-recognized tuition for beginners and scratch players alike.


The rebranding from the former Raffles Hotel into the Fairmont took place in 2006 when Kingdom Hotels International and Colony Capital created a global force in the hotel industry by buying the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts chain. The portfolios of the Fairmont and Raffles are grouped together, retaining their head office in Toronto. The new company now includes 120 hotels in 23 countries, brought together under 4 banners: Fairmont, Raffles, Swissôtel, and Delta.

Since 2007, the concession was acquired by the company, London & Regional, leaving the management of the hotel to the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts group.

Mega Big Ben in the desert
Makkah Clock Royal Tower / Image via

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