World's second-tallest building under construction in Saudi

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The Independent Online

An under-construction hotel complex in Saudi Arabia will feature the world's second-tallest building, topped by a clock six times bigger than London's Big Ben, the hotel's general manager said Tuesday.

The Mecca Royal Clock Tower will be made up of 662 metres (2,171 feet) of concrete structure and a 155-metre (508-foot) crecent-topped metal spire, Mohammed al-Arkubi said at a press conference in Dubai.

Combined, the two parts of the tower in the Muslim holy city of Mecca would be only roughly 11 metres (36 feet) shorter than Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower at 828 metres (2,717 feet).

Even the concrete section of the Mecca Royal Clock Tower would be taller than the current second-tallest building in the world, the 508-meter (1,676-foot) Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

"The first part of the hotel will open at the end of June, while the clock will begin operating at the end of July," ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin around August 10, Arkubi said.

The German-made clock, billed as "the largest in the world," will have 45-metre (147-foot) wide and 43-metre (141-foot) tall faces on all four sides of the tower, he said.

He added that it will be visible from 17 kilometres (10 miles) away at night and 11 to 12 kilometres (six to seven miles) away during the day.

"Putting Mecca time in the face of Greenwich Mean Time, this is the goal," Arkubi said.

He said the three-billion-dollar, seven-tower complex of hotels, called Abraj al-Bayt Towers, will contain 3,000 rooms and suites, the majority of which will overlook the Grand Mosque, which Muslims face for daily prayers.

The complex is being constructed by the Bin Laden Group, a giant real estate firm, on behalf of the Saudi government, he said.

The complex will be managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and its revenue will be placed in a "waqf," or Islamic trust, devoted to the development and maintenance of Muslim holy sites, Arkubi said.

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