Real estate in the central areas of Mecca and Medina is among the most expensive in the world, and has been bolstered by the ongoing rehabilitation of the two holy cities. Residential and commercial property in the Jebel Omar complex in Mecca, which was marketed at the Investment & Property Show in Dubai in March, is valued at up to SR 5,000 ($1,300) a square foot. When built up, the plots of land in Medina are expected to have similar price tags, Fahmi said.

The Prophet’s Mosque, the holiest site in Medina, was expanded in 1984 to accommodate the ever-increasing flow of pilgrims. The current five-year development programme focuses on the upgrade and expansion of nearby religious sites – including the Al-Ghamama Mosque, the Abu Bakr al-Sadeq Mosque, the Omar ibn al-Khattab Mosque and the Ali ibn Abi Talib Mosque – and the commercial and residential facilities surrounding them. Jeddah-based Zuhair Fayez & Partnersis the consultant for the development of both cities, which is co-ordinated by the Executive Committee for the Development of the Central Area.