Cube controversy: Saudi Arabia unveils 'Kaaba-esque' megastructure for Riyadh to social media scepticism
Saudi Arabia on Thursday unveiled its latest grandiose architectural plan for its capital city – a cube-shaped megastructure that critics say bears too close a resemblance to Islam's holiest site, the Kaaba.
To be constructed in central Riyadh by the end of this decade, The "Mukaab", meaning cube in Arabic, will stand 400 metres high, wide and long – big enough to hold 20 Empire State Buildings, according to the Saudi kingdom's Public Investment Fund (PIF).
It will house over 100,000 residential units, 9,000 hotel rooms and 1.4 million square metres of office space, as well as dozens of entertainment and culture venues.
A gateway to another world: #TheMukaab will be the world’s first immersive, experiential destination. Large enough to hold 20 Empire State Buildings, the global icon will feature innovative technologies to transport you to new worlds.#NewMurabbahttps://t.co/5R4DqQdPyS pic.twitter.com/vr9M8cTI1I— Public Investment Fund (@PIF_en) February 16, 2023
Featuring overlapping triangular forms, the building’s design and architecture is said to draw inspiration from styles found in the Najd region of Saudi Arabia.
The design and shape, however, bear what some social media users have said is an unnerving resemblance to the Kaaba, the cube structure in the Saudi city of Mecca that Muslims worldwide face during prayer and a centre point in the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
Twitter user Kariman, said: "This is a strange choice or is it just me? The New Mukaab, like the Kaaba but with shopping venues...?"
Another Twitter user, Riyad Al-Otaibie, questioned why a cube was chosen of all the shapes available.
"Does he want to create an entertainment Qibla [direction towards the Kaaba] to match the religious Qibla?," he asked.
This a strange choice or is it just me? The New Mukaab, like the Kabba but with shopping venues..? https://t.co/DCFfWOuYRQ— Kariman Mango كريمان منكو (@KarimanMango) February 16, 2023
The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the kingdom’s economy and to reduce its dependency on oil export revenues, according to state media outlet Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The Mukaab is to be completed just in time for Expo 2030, which will be hosted by the Gulf kingdom.
The Mukaab is the latest in a series of ambitious architectural projects underway in the country.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia revealed plans to build "The Line", a vertical city to house nine million people in the future NEOM megacity.
The NEOM project has drawn criticism from rights groups, with dozens of local tribespeople living on land earmarked for the megacity having been jailed for protesting its construction.