Expansion Charts

For fear of idolatry, an estimated 95% of Mecca’s historic buildings since 1985 (most over a thousand years old), have been demolished. It has been reported that there are now fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of Muhammad. Other buildings that have been destroyed include the house of Khadijah, the wife of Muhammad, demolished to make way for public lavatories; the house of Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s companion, now the site of the local Hilton Hotel; the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of Muhammad, and the Mosque of Abu-Qubais, now the location of the King’s palace in Mecca. In Medina, examples of historic sites which have been destroyed include the Salman al-Farsi Mosque, the Raj’at ash-Shams Mosque, the Jannat al-Baqi cemetery, and the house that Muhammad himself lived in. Aside from these demolitions and new building projects, extensions to accomodate the larger masses at both Masjid Al-Nabawwi in Medina and Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca have continued to unfold at feverish speed- making the recent to current ‘custodians of the holy mosques’ (King Fahd and King Abdullah) most responsible for both the expansion and destruction of these two sites.

No less than three times a year, the artist and her family would take a flight across Rub Al-Khali from the eastern to western province of Saudi Arabia in order to complete the Umra and visit the artist’s four uncles. Every trip to these two sites acted as a milestone for the consistent development that Waheed witnessed across the country between 1985-2005. From one visit to the next, new entrances would be built just as others closed, rows of pillars continued to fashion themselves into forested halls with rotating fans, stacks of floors collapsed one over the other, gridded scaffolding constantly eclipsed the grand mosques’ outer walls, while cold marble floors continued to extend and expand for what felt like miles beneath her feet. The artist remembers the first time she was greeted with Mecca’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken and Medina’s McDonald’s, the shadow the first five star hotel cast over the Ka’aba itself and all the crying children slung over parents shoulders that begged for toys in shops that lined the massive new mall built at the foot of it’s grand entrance.

Expansion Charts catalogs the evolution of development surrounding Masjid Al-Nabawwi in Medina and Masjid Al- Haram in Mecca, two of the most important houses of worship for the Muslim world. They are stark in their scientific approach and void of any cost that expansion invariably creates. They are the notes of an architect lost in the fray of development.

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