2016 has been a crazy year for anything claiming to be the “world’s largest” of its kind. First, Dubai announced its plans to—yet again—construct the world’s tallest building, and then Royal Caribbean debuted the Harmony of the Seas, the planet’s largest cruise ship to date.
Now, Saudi Arabia has plans to put its name into the mix of countries with chart topping tourist attractions, as its plans to complete what will easily be the world’s largest hotel in Mecca within the next two years.
The sheer magnitude of the hotel, called the Abraj Kudai, is enough to shock even the most travelled of tourists. The resort will house over 10,000 rooms, far more than its closest competitors, Malaysia’s First World Hotel (7,351 rooms), and Las Vegas’ MGM Grand (a now-measly 5,044 rooms). The property will also be home to more than 70 restaurants, a full shopping mall and a central dome that will be one of the world’s largest of its kind as well.
Despite the Abraj Kudai’s impressive numbers, criticism has been pouring in for a number of different reasons. For starters, the $3.5 billion price tag seems a bit excessive, especially since the building is being funded through Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance.
Additionally, estimated delays in the construction process means it could take longer for the country to begin receiving a return on its billion-dollar investment. The effect of recently dropping oil prices have been felt across the country, especially in the construction sector where the government has halted payments and production on a number of projects.
In light of these developments, concerns have risen that the hotel may not be finished until sometime after 2018, even though was originally set to open sometime next year.
On top of that, there have been serious complaints about the building’s location. As Mecca has traditionally been a site for religious tourism—especially for Muslims competing Haj, or pilgrimage to the city—much has been made about a giant, glamorous structure looming over sacred and historic sites.
When the Abraj Kudai is finished, it is sure to draw equal parts fascination and disdain from the world as a whole. However, it still remains to be seen how long it will even take for the hotel to be completed.
Dillon Thompson is a travel intern with Paste and a student at the University of Georgia.