- The meteorology centre warned of further storms on Wednesday bringing rain, wind and thunder to the Mecca region and elsewhere in western Saudi Arabia
Fierce storms closed schools and businesses on Wednesday, August 23 in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca region, home to Islam’s holiest site, the Grand Mosque.
Lightning struck Tuesday night
Footage shared online showed that as pilgrims tried to go round the Kaaba, the giant black cube towards which all Muslims pray, a bolt of lightning struck the iconic Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower hotel, illuminating the night sky late Tuesday.
The storm brought force winds exceeding 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour, Hussein al-Qahtani, spokesman for the National Centre for Meteorology, told AFP.
No casualties were reported during the storm.
Mecca resident Abu Mayyada told AFP he was out buying cigarettes and petrol when ‘everything went black in front of me’ as the worst of the storm hit.
‘Suddenly I lost control over the vehicle. I couldn’t see anything so I started listening to the Koran on the radio. I didn’t understand what was happening,’ he said.
The Mecca neighbourhood of Al-Kakkiyah recorded 45 millimetres (1.8 inches) of rain within 24 hours, the meteorology centre shared in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
More footages posted by Mecca residents on Wednesday morning showed pilgrims outside the Grand Mosque who were toppled over by the wind, ‘The scene was very scary,’ said Mecca resident Mohammed, who was grocery shopping at the height of the storm.
‘Everything happened within a few minutes, when it started raining in a crazy way.’
The Mecca regional government said on X that schools would be closed in parts of Mecca, with classes conducted on an e-learning platform, ‘in the interest of everyone’s safety’.