Religious visits bring fortune to Mecca shops
MECCA - Anatolia News AgencyApproximately 15 million Muslims visit Mecca to complete the Hajj and the Umrah every year, making it one of the most lucrative shopping centers in the world.
The Hajj pilgrimage results in rapidly increasing rental costs in the area, with annual rental for a moderate 50 square-meter shops close to the Kabah in the center of Mecca now being no less than $200,000.
Shops and malls remain open 20 hours a day throughout the whole year.
Pilgrims are estimated to have spent nearly $8 billion in Mecca and Medina during Ramadan last year. It is mainly foreigners such as people from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Yemen working in the trade, but the official bosses are Saudis, as foreigners are not allowed to directly run shops in the country. The foreign traders need Saudi guarantors to reside and receive work permits, which comes at a cost as they have to give a certain share of their earnings to guarantors.