RIYADH, Sb. – When Sheikh Mohammed Kamel Alsaud purchased the small town of Buford, Wyoming from a Vietnamese entrepreneur last year for $1.8 million, his lifelong dream of bringing Islam to America was one step closer to becoming a reality.
“I have fond memories of spending summers on the Mediterranean aboard my father’s yacht. On occasion we’d visit the Gulf [of Mexico] to entertain his American clients,” Alsaud told Forbes magazine. “Even as a child, I was always struck by the distinct lack of mosques in the U.S., but they say what America lacks in mosques, it makes up tenfold in prisons.”
Alsaud has hired the Binladen Group, a Saudi Arabian construction company founded in 1931 by Mohammed Bin Laden, to develop the $650 million project. Dubbed the ‘Mecca of the West’ by Shiekh Alsaud, the site is designed to replicate the original Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the most sacred site in the Islamic faith, located in Hejaz, Saudi Arabia.
Like the original holy city, only Muslims are permitted access to the ‘Mecca of the West.’ However, Alsaud told Forbes, “Our non-Muslim patrons will have the option to view the holy shrine using high-end telescopes installed at way-points around the perimeter.” The telescopes, according to Alsaud, are pay-per-view and cost $15 to operate. “A fair price in comparison to that which our Muslim brothers and sisters will pay to make their annual pilgrimage to Buford,” Alsaud said.
Shiekh Alsaud plans to have the entire complex up and running in time for the next annual Hajj pilgrimage. “As a way of giving thanks to Allah, I’ve pledged to cover travel costs and lodging for the first five hundred-thousand pilgrims who dutifully put their lives on hold next year in honor of the Prophet Muhammed,” Alsaud said.
Mecca of the West will hold its grand opening at the beginning of the second week of September, 2016. The site, which has a maximum capacity of 750,000, will include a Chic-fil-A restaurant, a small hospital, and twelve hotels, four of which are five-star establishments.