Could Mecca Time Replace Greenwich Mean Time?

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Mecca Clock Tower

REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout

For 125 years, the world has set its watches based on one clock, on the top of a hill, in London. But that could change with the building of a new clock tower in Saudi Arabia.

According to the Telegraph, the Royal Mecca Clock Tower is a newly-erected building in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, located in Saudi Arabia. The clock is set to start tomorrow, as Muslims around the world begin to observe Ramadan. It looks very similar to London’s St. Stephen’s Tower (which contains the Big Ben bell), but on a much larger scale. Each face of the clock measures 151 feet in diameter, and once a spire is added the tower will stand 2,000 feet tall. The tower will remind people to pray by flashing green and white lights that can be seen for 18 miles.  The clock will run on Arabia Standard Time, which is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

The new tower is certainly impressive, but the movement behind it is even bigger. Islamic scholars argue the clock ought to replace Greenwich Mean Time as the world standard, making Mecca “the true center of the earth.” Some argue that the area of Mecca is a “zero-magnetism zone” due to its alignment with the Magnetic North. However, Western scientists say the Magnetic North Pole is actually a line of longitude that passes through North and South America.

Even if Greenwich Mean Time holds, the clock tower will be a major point of interest for pilgrims to Mecca — it is part of a massive new government-funded complex featuring shopping and hotels.