Illegals from demolished Makkah districts find haven in Housh Bakr
MAKKAH — The holy city of Makkah is currently witnessing a number of development projects aimed at improving the services being provided to its residents, pilgrims and visitors.
Among others, the projects include the third parallel road in Makkah leading to the Grand Mosque, the Mashair (holy sites) train and King Abdullah Mosque.
The implementation of the projects necessitated the demolishing of a number of buildings in Al-Mansour district, which is only 500 meters away from the Grand Mosque. The district is composed of many sub-residential areas and districts consisting of Quodin Qado, Manshezo, Jabal Ghurab and Housh Bakr. All these underdeveloped districts, replete with random vendors, have been demolished except Housh Bakr.
The residents of the demolished districts have transferred their activities to Housh Bakr, which is inhabited by expatriates with no official residence documents, especially African migrants.
Housh Bakr is considered the artery of illegal commercial activities in Al-Mansour district. It is located about two kilometers from the central area around the Haram. It is almost invisible, as it is surrounded by mountains from at least three of its directions. It is also an exporter of various epidemics, rotten foodstuffs and stolen goods, including clothes, electric equipment and other commodities.
The district got its name Housh Bakr, which translates as the “courtyard of Bakr” from the first African who lived there. The Nigerian, named Bakr, was considered the actual ruler of his compatriots and other Africans who lived in the area.
Housh Bakr gained its notoriety not only from selling and buying stolen goods, but also from being the largest single place where scrap steel products were refurbished and sold to interested buyers.
Steel and wooden doors and windows are rehashed and painted before they are sold in large quantities to expatriates to build random homes in other underdeveloped areas.
Housh Bakr peddlers dispatch their children and wives to scavenge at the sites of the development projects to collect scrap materials, which will be repaired or polished to be sold to interested buyers.
The place has also become notorious for its criminal activities. Its illegal residents usually gather after midnight in one of its narrow streets to commit all kinds of unethical acts. They consume alcohol, use drugs and commit other vices.
Though the police conduct surprise raids on Housh Bakr time to time, the place is still replete with stolen goods including computers, motorbikes, electric appliances, clothes and others. The raids did not succeed in putting an end to the crimes that are being committed by illegal residents.
Many of Makkah residents have expressed worries about the existence of Housh Bakr, though a number of the underdeveloped districts have been demolished. “This is one of the most dangerous areas in Makkah,” said Turki Hassan, a Saudi resident of the holy city.
He said Housh Bakr has become more dangerous, particularly after all the underdeveloped areas around it have been demolished. He called for tightening security and health surveillance of the district to stop the violations from spreading.
Ibrahim Housni, another Saudi, said the health condition of the district is disturbing. “There is a large quantity of sewage and garbage accumulating in the district, making it a dangerous place for public health, especially at a time when authorities are waging a serious war against the MERS coronavirus,” he said.
Ra’ed Abdullah warned that if there was a fire in the district, it would easily spread to other areas, threatening the lives of their residents. He pointed out that the streets of the district are narrow, making it difficult for the Civil Defense vehicles to pass. “Therefore, any fire will not be put off quickly and it may have perilous consequences,” he said.