|Location||Mecca, Saudi Arabia|
|Demolished||1 to 9 January 2002|
The Ajyad Fortress (Ottoman Turkish: قلعهٔ اجیاد, Turkish: Ecyad Kalesi; Arabic: قلعة أجياد) was an Ottoman citadel which stood on a hill overlooking the Grand Mosque of Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Built in the late 18th century, it was demolished by the Saudi government in 2002 for commercial development of the Abraj Al Bait, sparking outcry from Turkey and other concerned Muslims of the world.
The fortress was built in 1780 under Ottoman rule (later Hejaz vilayet) in order to protect the Kaaba in Mecca from Bedouin bandits and invaders. The fort covered some 23,000 m2 (250,000 sq ft) on Bulbul Mountain (a spur of Jebel Kuda) overlooking the Masjid al-Haram from the south. The Ottoman Empire ruled a vast empire covering the Arabian Peninsula, the Balkans, and North Africa. However, the empire disintegrated at the beginning of the 20th century and present-day Turkey was established as a secular state.
From 1 to 9 January 2002, the Ajyad Fortress was demolished and most of Bulbul mount was leveled, in order to clear the area for the $15 billion construction project.
The destruction of the historic structure stirred both domestic and international protest. The Turkish Foreign Minister İsmail Cem İpekçi as well as several institutions tried to prevent the demolition. The Turkish Democratic Left Party (DSP) Deputy Ertuğrul Kumcuoğlu even suggested a boycott on travelling to Saudi Arabia. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism condemned the obliteration of the fortress, comparing the act to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan, and accusing the Saudi authorities of "continuing with their policy of demolishing Ottoman heritage sites".
The French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Saudi Islamic affairs Minister Saleh al-Shaikh as saying "no-one has the right to interfere in what comes under the state's authority". In reference to the housing component of the plan, al-Sheikh added that it was intended to house pilgrims to Mecca, and said "this is in the interest of Muslims all over the world".
However, the destruction of this and other historic sites fueled criticism of the Saudis, and plans were made to rebuild the castle, as ordered by the King in 2001:
King Fahd has given his approval for the King Abdul Aziz Endowment for the Holy Haram and for the preparation of the project site by removing the hill and the castle. The king instructed that the castle should be preserved in full by rebuilding it," the minister said in a statement.[failed verification]
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