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Saudi Women Vote—and Win— for First Time

At least 5 win council seats in historic election

(Newser) - At least five Saudi women have won seats on local municipal councils a day after women voted and ran in elections for the first time in the country's history, according to initial results Sunday. The women hail from vastly different parts of the country, ranging from Saudi Arabia's... More »

Iran: Diplomat Is Missing in Hajj Disaster

Tehran blames stampede Saudi 'incompetence'

(Newser) - As the hajj religious pilgrimage entered its final day today, officials in Saudi Arabia continued to grapple with the aftermath of a deadly stampede that killed at least 719 people. Iran announced in a state TV broadcast that among those Iranians still missing are a former ambassador to Lebanon as... More »

How the Mecca Stampede Happened

'Fluid dynamics' can cause disaster, experts say

(Newser) - With crowds the size of those on the hajj pilgrimage, normality can turn to chaos and horror in a matter of minutes, according to experts who say yesterday's stampede near Mecca followed a grimly familiar pattern. A big part of the problem is "fluid dynamics—except people are... More »

Wind Blamed as Mecca Disaster Toll Tops 100

238 injured after crane falls on Islam's holiest site

(Newser) - The head of Saudi Arabia's civil defense directorate says high winds caused a massive crane to topple over and smash into Mecca's Grand Mosque yesterday, killing at least 107 people at Islam's holiest site ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The official says unusually... More »

65 Dead in Mecca Crane Collapse

Construction accident occurs as holy city prepares for annual pilgrimage

(Newser) - A crane crashed through the roof of the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca today, Saudi Arabia officials announced. The death toll from the tragedy currently sits at 65, the BBC reports. Details are few, but the crane collapsed as Mecca prepares for the yearly Muslim Hajj... More »

Saudi Women Rock the Voter Registration for First Time

Historic moment as women prepare to cast ballots in December elections

(Newser) - Not unusual: A well-known businessperson and a schoolteacher registered to vote Sunday in Saudi Arabia's municipal elections in December. Unusual: that they were both women. Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat earned the honors of being the first two females ever in the kingdom to register (Saadi in Medina,... More »

5 Astounding Numbers: the World's Biggest Hotel

The Abraj Kudai is set to open in 2017

(Newser) - Come 2017, the world will have a new largest hotel by room count—by a hefty margin. The Guardian takes a look at what's coming to Saudi Arabia's Mecca: the $3.5 billion Abraj Kudai, which will sit about a mile from the Grand Mosque and feature one... More »

Saudis Building Anti-ISIS 'Great Wall'

600-mile barrier on Iraq border designed to keep militants out, Mecca safe

(Newser) - If ISIS wants to infiltrate Mecca and Medina (Muhammad's burial location), it may have to find another way in other than crossing the Iraqi border. Since September, Saudi Arabia has quietly been erecting a 600-mile east-west barrier between itself and its northern neighbor, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The... More »

Saudi Cop Rests Shoe on Holy Site, Sets Off Furor

Governor of Mecca orders investigation

(Newser) - A Saudi police officer is the scourge of many in the Arab world today after a photo of him resting his shoe against a holy site went viral, reports Gulf News . The officer was snapped leaning against the Kaaba, which the BBC describes as "a square building at the... More »

Saudis Destroy Artifacts in Mecca's Grand Mosque

Including column where Mohammed began 'heavenly journey'

(Newser) - Has Saudi Arabia's rebuilding of Mecca gone too far? The Independent is running photos of construction crews as they demolish areas of the Grand Mosque—Islam's holiest site—including a column that marks the place where Mohammed is said to have started his journey to heaven on a... More »

Angry Kin: 9/11 Memorial in Pennsylvania 'Looks Muslim'

Dirt carvings highlight 'huge crescent pointing to Mecca,' critics charge

(Newser) - The latest Muslim brouhaha to erupt in the US involves an earthen memorial to 9/11 victims that "looks" Islamic, according to furious critics. The father of a passenger killed on Flight 93, which went down in Pennsylvania, is taking out an ad in a local newspaper blasting the planned... More »

New Mecca Clock Challenges Greenwich Mean Time

Mecca-London battle over time itself

(Newser) - Greenwich Mean Time should make way for Mecca Mean Time, according to Saudis building a giant clock. The timepiece, which boasts four faces, each 151 feet high, will sit atop the 2,000-foot Royal Mecca Clock Tower in Islam's holiest city when completed. Islamic scholars hope the clock will eclipse... More »

Indonesian Muslims Were Praying in Wrong Direction

Council miscalculated direction of Mecca

(Newser) - Indonesian Muslims discovered that they have been praying in the wrong direction on Friday when the country's highest Islamic authority admitted that the instructions it gave to face west had worshipers turned toward Africa instead of Saudi Arabia. Muslims are always supposed to face the holy city of Mecca while... More »

Karzai Seeks Saudi Help in Taliban Talks

Afghan president arrives in Riyadh

(Newser) - Hamid Karzai arrived in Riyadh today, hoping to secure Saudi Arabia’s help in peace negotiations with the Taliban. Karzai and his entourage will first make a pilgrimage to Mecca, then meet with King Abdullah tomorrow to discuss the reconciliation process. Abdullah has said his government won’t participate as... More »

Architects Compete for Massive Mecca Makeover

Vast complex to be tripled in capacity to fit Hajj pilgrims

(Newser) - Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid are among the 18 architects reportedly in the running for the daunting job of remaking Mecca: designing a mosque complex to accommodate the 3 million pilgrims making the yearly Hajj. The "new architectural vision" would more than triple the complex's capacity and make... More »

Mecca Time Plugged for World Standard

Muslim scholars say British-imposed GMT due for a change

(Newser) - A group of Muslim scholars wants Mecca time to replace Greenwich Mean Time as the world's default setting, the BBC reports. As Islam’s holiest city lies in perfect longitudinal alignment to magnetic north, scientists told a Qatar conference that Mecca was the “true” center of the earth. GMT,... More »

Fatah and Hamas Sign Deal, But Feuding Continues

Rival Palestinian factions bicker over control of Gaza

(Newser) - In a second attempt to mend fences, rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas agreed to resume direct talks today to resolve disputes and revive their failed coalition. A Hamas official called the deal “a new beginning and the start of a new stage,” but just hours after signing... More »

57 Saudi Men Arrested for Flirting

Prosecutors say they exhibited 'bad' behavior to woo girls at malls

(Newser) - Authorities in Saudi Arabia arrested 57 young men accused of flirting with girls at shopping malls in Mecca, the BBC reports. Prosecutors say the men wore indecent clothing, played loud music, and danced to attract the girls’ attention. The arrests were prompted by Saudi’s Commission for the Promotion of... More »

Pilgrims Use Wi-Fi at Hajj for First Time

Wireless routers set up at 70 holy sites for ancient Islamic ritual

(Newser) - Muslim pilgrims had free access to Wi-Fi for the first time during the Hajj, which ended yesterday in Saudi Arabia. The short-term service, provided by two telecom firms, had 70 access points around holy sites and took only two months to assemble. Pilgrims say that online access helped them seek... More »

Saudis Foil Hajj Attack

Militants aiming to disrupt Muslim ritual nabbed

(Newser) - As millions of Muslims completed the annual Hajj pilgrimage yesterday, Saudi police said they'd arrested a group that had been planning attacks, Al Arabiya reports. An official said the al-Qaeda suspects, detained at cities across the country, had been intent on disrupting the ritual and causing "security confusion."... More »

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