New Clock Tower in Mecca Challenges Greenwich Mean Time

Proposing to move the standard to the center of the Muslim world

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As Ramadan starts, so does a giant clock in the holy city of Mecca, an intended challenger to Big Ben and Greenwich Mean Time. When construction is completed, it will be the largest clock in the world. Is this, as The Awl's Alex Balk succinctly puts it, "the next Muslim thing to get upset about?" Let's take a look:

  • A Serious Movement  The biggest thing here isn't the clock, but the idea behind it, explains Time's Megan Friedman. "Islamic scholars argue the clock ought to replace Greenwich Mean Time as the world standard, making Mecca 'the true center of the earth.'" In fact, some are apparently claiming Mecca is a "'zero-magnetism zone' due to its alignment with the Magnetic North," though Western scientists respond that "the Magnetic North Pole is actually a line of longitude that passes through North and South America." Either way, the clock, part of a "new government-funded complex featuring shopping and hotels," says Friedman, "will be a major point of interest for pilgrims to Mecca," particularly as it "will remind people to pray by flashing green and white lights that can be seen for 18 miles."
  • 'Bears a Resemblance to Big Ben,' observes David Kenner at Foreign Policy. "If Ben was on steroids," he adds.
Its four faces, each 151 feet in diameter, will be lit with two million LED lights. It will sit on top of a tower that stretches 1,983 feet in the air. By comparison, Big Ben's faces are merely 23 feet in diameter, and its tower is only 316 feet tall. The tower also has some Islamic touches that are all its own: Arabic script reading "In the Name of Allah" runs below the clock faces, and white and green lights will flash during at the top of the clock will flash to signal the five daily times for prayer in Islam.
  • 'Arab Muslims: Time Thieves'  Gawker's Richard Lawson could be mocking the builders or the potential backlash: "Holy Christmas! Pretty soon we'll all be wearing white dresses and prayin' eastward."
  • 'Today, the Tiny Clock on Your Wrist,' writes Alex Balk in much the same fashion. "Tomorrow, the world."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.