(MENAFN - Arab News) With the last 10 days of Ramadan commencing today, hotels and furnished apartments near the Grand Mosque in Makkah are already fully booked, with a typical room offering a view of the Kabaa - the House of God - ranging anywhere between ten and SR 15,000 per night.
Pilgrims performing the "umrah" pilgrimage argue that the high prices make it possible for only the wealthy to stay near the Grand Mosque, creating a luxury market for accommodation therein.
"It is unfair and unholy that these rooms are not made affordable for all to enjoy," Majed Hamad told Arab News, adding that prices should be regulated because it is not acceptable to put a price on the "blessings of Ramadan." Some claim that it is not hotel owners who are to blame for the rise in price but pilgrims who are willing to pay such rates.
"I do not hold the view that it is entirely fault of hotel owners for the price increase because if members of the public refused to pay thousands of riyals per night for such accommodation, owners would be forced to reduce prices to turn a profit" Yahya Hindawiyah said.
In other words, demand for such a service is largely elastic. Indeed, other pilgrims have said that they have already paid astronomical sums of money to stay near the Grand Mosque during Ramadan.
"We have been staying at a hotel not far from the Grand Mosque since Ramadan began and have spent nearly SR 200,000" a pilgrim from Riyadh wishing to remain anonymous said, stating that he has been planning the trip since last Ramadan by saving throughout the year in order to be able to enjoy the holy month of this year.
Justifying the rise in prices, Saad Jameel Al-Qurashi, the chairman of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah said "Businessmen who have invested enormously into these properties are legitimately taking advantage of the peak Ramadan season in order to reap a return on their investment", stating that there is "nothing wrong with seasonal practice."