Ceylon House Makkah Compensation Expected At US$ 100 Million?
By Faraz Shauketaly
Ceylon House – a pilgrims rest in the holy city of Makkah (Mecca), in Saudi Arabia – is set to receive compensation in the region of USD 100 Million (LKR 12 Billion) after the Saudi Arabian authorities sought the compulsory purchase of the building. The Authorities have cited the expansion of the Grand Mosque – the focal point for Muslims globally – and have offered to pay compensation.
Spearheading the negotiations with the Saudi authorities is Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie who together with his friend and President’s Counsel, the late Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, A. A. M. Marleen have been conducting negotiations since 2006. Ceylon House was established in late 1959 / early 1960 with the help of past luminaries such as Dr. T. B. Jayah and his contemporaries at the time. Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie was unable to confirm the anticipated level of compensation saying that the matter is with the Courts who will rule on the basis of compensation or an alternative accommodation. Minister Fowzie was able to confirm that the matter is being handled by a Saudi national of Sri Lankan descent, Sadeek Hajiar whose family have a long involvement in the administration of Ceylon House.
Other sources from Saudi Arabia indicated however that the Sri Lankan trust that owns Ceylon House with special permission from the late King Saud are running into problems with the administrator of the building whose intentions they say are ‘unholy’ at best. There is a move for the compensation to be paid to the government of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry although our source in Saudi Arabia states that as the ownership is with the Trust, it is they who will receive the compensation.
Makkah in Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most expensive places to purchase property. Land in Makkah is valued at more than SR 500,000 or USD 133,300 per square meter with land closer to the Grand Mosque fetching considerably more – in places at least SR 700,000 or USD 185,000 per square meter. In Sri Lanka terms that translates to USD 539 Million or LKR 70 Billion per acre at the lower end of the scale and to LKR 98 Billion (LKR 98,000,000,000) per acre at the upper end of the scale. Land in Trincomalee by contrast fetches approximately LKR 20 Million per acre and in Colombo at LKR 800 Million an acre.
According to Canadian-Muslim Tom Hertell a Jeweller who has made Saudi Arabia his home for over 30 years property in Makkah is the best place without equal to invest in property. The prices are moving steadily upwards as the Grand Mosque expands to accommodate an ever-increasing number of worshippers. Says Ahmad Al-Ghamdi a property investor, “land has become so expensive driven by the demand, that it is actually more valuable than gold and diamonds.”
Realtor Ibrahim Halim says, “Makkah is home to 688,000 residents apart from the continuous pilgrims who visit every day aside from the peak Hajj season. Makkah will need 88,600 apartments and 137,000 homes and we expect that a further 35,000 apartments will be built, fuelling a USD 4 Billion programme of investments.” In 2010 it was reported that the Saudi government had earmarked a fund of USD 10.7 Billion or LKR 1.3 Trillion to fund compensation payments to owners of properties in the immediate vicinity of the Grand Mosque. The City of Makkah is closed to all non-Muslims.