Shifting The Zero Meridian to Mecca, Does It Matter??

The Giant Clock of Mecca as perceived by an artist's rendition

Today, I am supposed to write about religion as I did in the previous years during Ramadan. But as I found something interesting like the topic I unintentionally found on the MetroTV’s website, I am sorry to say that I have to interrupt it with the issue like this, the big clock in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and the intention of the Saudis (and the Muslims worldwide??) to shift the zero meridian currently coincides on the meridian passing through Greenwich which is part of the Greater London in the UK to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. As we have already known that the Saudis are constructing the biggest clock in the world in a tower called Mecca Royal Clock Hotel Tower or Abraj Al Bait Towers. The tower itself was planned to stand as tall as about 600 metres (about 1,970 feet). The clock will belittle the world’s former biggest tower clock, the famous picturesque Big Ben in London, The UK. The tower is said to be completed in autumn 2011.

What really attracted my attention was not the construction of the clock itself, it was the plan to move UTC, or the Coordinated Universal Time, the new term to replace the GMT, from Greenwich to Mecca, as it is reported by the MetroTV’s site. I cannot stop wondering is it urgent to move the zero meridian to Mecca just because they build the world’s biggest clock?? Is that a good reason to move the zero Meridian to Mecca? If they want to build a gigantic clock that stands more than half a kilo towering over other skyscrapers I don’t mind. It is even good for their esteem. It does not give rise to troubles for millions or even billions of people outside Saudi Arabia. But to set a new zero meridian is a completely new story. It will involve concerns of billions of people around the globe and it will affect almost every nook and cranny of the aspects of humanity concerning time. Don’t they realise how much money will be spent on altering computer programs and computer systems worldwide just to adjust to the new meridian?? How many billions of dollars must be spent on republishing new printouts or to change hoardings and timetables worldwide to concur with the new standard time?? For me, it is unreasonable, at least for now, to shift the zero meridian from Greenwich to Mecca, I cannot see any urgent reasons to set a new standard international time.

Unless the Saudis can come up with something more reasonable or they can create a totally new timekeeping system which is more accurate than the current timekeeping system that we don’t have to be bothered by the future discrepancy between the rotation of the earth and our present 24-hour timekeeping system, it is not urgent to move UTC 40 degrees curvilinearly away from its current location. I’m sorry to say that I suspect that it is just a matter of the Saudis’ esteem. But in my humble opinion, if it is so, I believe there are many other ways to build the esteem more reasonably. Like, to start with, they can unemploy the Swiss and the German engineers who build the giant clocks and replace them with the home-grown Saudi engineers. So the giant clock will be built on the Saudi technical know-how and they are not dependent much on foreign engineers. I think this kind of self-esteem is more worthy of respect than just building a giant clock and move the zero meridian to their land that will cause troubles for billions worldwide.

What about you guys?? Do you share the same view with me?? 😉


For comparison, Big Ben’s height is only about 96 metres, whilst the “Jam Gadang” of Bukittinggi stands only 26 metres dwarfish. 😉


7 responses to “Shifting The Zero Meridian to Mecca, Does It Matter??

  1. Hi Yari,
    Very interesting post.
    I always like reading your post which are detailed but clear.
    Re: the Saudi Clock itself, I wonder whether it would bring more esteem to them.
    Although it is absolutely their right to choose how to spend their money but IMHO
    they will get more esteem if they use the money to help poor Moslem countries.

  2. I also thinking like you, Yari.
    They just build it very very too late. They might have a chance if it was built before the GMT time in London applied. 🙂

  3. @Harry Nizam

    Harry, I’m afraid the Saudis do not consider that helping poorer Muslim countries (only Muslim countries???) would not boost the esteem for them, because what become the esteem for them are seemingly things that other nations not easily achieve. Helping other nations is something other rich and advanced countries can do but to build gigantic clocks that dwarf the famous Big Ben?? That’s the kind of things that they believe can boost the esteem for them.


    Yes, I am afraid that they must create another thing, another system, another invention that’s really new to put themselves into the centre of a certain great thing for humanity. Sorry for the Saudis that the international standard timekeeping system had long gone to Greenwich.

  4. its right…., seandainya saja insinyurnya org arab asli, mungkin lebih membanggakan.
    negara kaya yang bingung ngeluarin duitnya pak.. jd ya bikin proyek mercusuar aja…
    supremasi islam?? ga juga kali yah… wong pangkalan amrik aja masih ngejeduk di sono..
    he.. actually i wanna write in english.. but .. pusing nyusunnya.. hehe

  5. tapi mas katanya jam gadang biar pendek tp unik krn angka 4nya ditulis IIII bukannya IV spt angka rumawi biasa.

  6. to think that its still an issue, why should we change the timing system if the recent still work?

    UTC +7 is still fine, unless, they talk about the change of the declination angle toward the Ka’bah, which is, worth for us to know and to re-calibrate

  7. @Saiful Ghozi

    Ya betul. Jika hanya proyek mercusuar tidak akan mengangkat supermasi Islam. Supermasi di bumi ini hanya dapat dibangun lewat ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi (tentu saja yang diiringi dengan moral yang baik). Ingat ada peribahasa “knowledge is power”.

    @Ag bint

    Kayaknya justru kebalikannya deh. Justru saya heran jika ada jam yang pakai angka Romawi, 4-nya ditulis IV bukannya IIII. Justru yang ditulis IIII itu yang sangat umum. Coba saja deh kamu perhatiin Bin. Kalau ada jam yang angka Romawinya ditulis IV boleh deh bawa ke saya, tunjukin coba! 😀 Ditulis IIII itu karena kalau ditulis IV (apalagi dalam posisi terbalik upside-down angkanya)takut keliru dengan angka VI. 😀


    Yes, the rule is clear. Never change the old things that still serve well. Because it is only wasting money and energy, and the benefit or the improvement of the benefit is not worth appreciating. 🙂

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