Stat of the Month: Prophet and Profit - $30bn

Mecca's spend on construction over the next four years

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

And that's all within a 2km radius of the Grand Mosque. With each of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims obliged to complete Hajj - the pilgrimage to Islam's holiest city - at least once, the business of accommodating them is worth a few riyals. Mecca received 4.5 million visitors last year, and the annual influx is predicted to reach 20 million in a decade. Pilgrims can now expect to conduct the ritual amid high-rise hotels, shopping malls and exclusive properties. Not to mention cranes. Mecca's real-estate market is now worth $400bn, and land is valued at SR250,000 (£34,000) per sq m - up from SR90,000 just a few years ago. Religion has, of course, always been lucrative. The Vatican values its real estate at EUR700m - not including the 'priceless' St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, worth a symbolic one euro. Religious tourism, meanwhile, is largely recession-proof. And with many Muslims now achieving the difficult balance of affluence and spirituality, it seems a wise investment for an oil-dependent Saudi government. The only question is whether the authorities can achieve a similar balance: of developing the holy city without destroying it.

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