On 13th of March, Alserkal Avenue will present Ahmed Maters’ launch and signing of his recent book, Desert of Pharan: Unofficial Histories of The Mass Expansion of Mecca, published by Lars Muller Publishing. The launch will be paired with an exhibition of the same series, curated by ATHR, a contemporary art platform in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Through a series of photographs, Ahmed Mater charts the city’s origins to its more recent history over the last 5 years. It is a study of the site’s recent transformation—Mecca, until recently, embodied a unique urban tapestry, layered with histories that are stitched together by an abundance of organically rooted communities and cultures. It is a place that accommodated not only sacred structures and sites but also huge fluctuations in population during Ramadan and Hajj (up to 3 million visitors a year travel to Mecca). More recently, these sites and communities have been eradicated and are being replaced with five-star-studded high rise developments, transforming it from an active metropolis to the world’s most exclusive, yet most visited religious tourist destination, reflective of an unprecedented experimentation with architecture and its possible impact on social stratification.
This photographic essay is a celebration of Mecca's real and projected or imaginary states. It provides singular access to this site and its associated social and religious rituals, along with its architectural urban planned and proposed development.
With a text by Catherine David and interviews with Dr. Sami Angawi and Abdul Rahman Hassanein Makhlouf.