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Ajyad Fortress

The Ajyad Fortress on top of Bulbul Hill
The Ajyad Fortress on top of Bulbul Hill

The Ajyad Fortress (Arabic: قلعة أجياد‎) was an Ottoman era castle which stood on a hill overlooking Masjid al-Haram. It was demolished in 2002 by the Saudi government to make way for the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower.

Protection of Makkah

  • The fort was one of several castles built by the Ottomans to protect the Ka’bah from invaders. Built in 1780 CE, it covered around 23,000 m2 (250,000 sq ft) of Bulbul Hill, a spur in the northern part of Mount Khalifah (also known as Mound Kuda). It formed a powerful defence line with two other forts, Lala and Hindi, to the west and north.
Historic view of the Ajyad Fortress viewed from the Mataf
Historic view of the Ajyad Fortress viewed from the Mataf
  • It continued to defend the Ka’bah and Makkah against rebel attacks until 1923, when King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entered Makkah. The king donated the fort to the Masjid al-Haram as an endowment.
Aerial view of the fort prior to its demolition
Aerial view of the fort prior to its demolition

Demolition of the Ajyad Fortress

  • In January 2002 the fort was demolished to clear the area for the $15 billion construction project of the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower. The demolition sparked a global outcry, in particular from Turkey, who saw it as a continuation of Saudi policy of eradicating Ottoman era heritage.
The Makkah Towers complex
The Makkah Towers complex

Relocation

  • Initially, a proposal was made to deconstruct and rebuild the fort elsewhere in order to preserve it. However, this plan was subsequently dropped. 
  • A small replica model of the fort can be found in the Miniatürk theme park in Istanbul, Turkey.
Miniature of the Ajyad Fortress
Miniature of the fortress – Photo: Nomadicniko.com

References: Makkawi.com, Wikipedia