Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, which this year ends during the second week of September, revolves around the clock: there’s fasting from dawn to sunset, and prayers five times each day. To help keep time, Saudi Arabia has erected the world’s biggest clock, which started a three-month trial period in Mecca at the beginning of Ramadan.
The opulent four-faced Mecca Clock Royal Tower is a marvel: it soars to 600 m, hovering over Mecca’s Grand Mosque, and when completed will be the world’s second tallest building. The structure reflects a goal by some Muslims to establish “Mecca time” as the universal standard. Scholars and clerics have argued that the Saudi city is the true global meridian, “in perfect alignment with the magnetic north,” and should therefore replace Greenwich Mean Time, which they say was imposed on the world when Britain was a colonial power. In the unlikely event that this comes to pass, the sun will never set on Mecca and its massive clock. Instead of looking up to Big Ben, inscribed in Latin with the phrase ‘Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria I,’ the new tower’s Arabic inscription, ‘God is greatest,’ will loom above all.