Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities [SCTA] has revealed its forthcoming plans for historical sites in the holy city of Mecca, pledging that these will be in line with strict Islamic laws regarding the administration of heritage sites. SCTA announced that the historical site of the Bir Tawa water well has been registered as one of its certified antiquities.
According to Abdullah al-Sawat, Executive Director of Mecca’s SCTA branch, Bir Tawa has been registered in accordance with Royal Decree No. 3212, stipulating the preservation of antiquities in a manner that does not sanctify or glorify them.
Responding to questions raised by Asharq al-Awsat, al-Sawat said that this move was based on directives issued by Prince Sultan Bin Salman, Chairman of SCTA. He indicated that SCTA plans to administer Islamic heritage sites in Mecca in line with Islamic Sharia law and based on a vision bestowed upon them by God Almighty and the Kingdom’s leaders, who are keen to apply this.
Dr. Osama al-Bar, Secretary-General of the Holy Capital, told Asharq al-Awsat that “the Jarwal historical site is currently undergoing an expansion operation, and everyone will see it in its new guise once the renovations in the Central District as well as in the vicinity of the Holy Mosque are completed.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Sa’ad al-Joudi al-Shariff, a professor of contemporary history, informed Asharq Al Awsat that the ancient well located in the Jarwal district, or the area now commonly known as Bir Tawa, has great archaeological value and profound historical significance, and has witnessed many historical events. The well is where the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) once bathed, and lies in close proximity to Abu Lahab’s tomb and Mount Qaikaan, as well as other significant archaeological and historical sites for which Mecca is famous.
Al-Shariff added that the “Jarwal” district had been previously named “Tawa”, which referred to one of Mecca’s valleys extending from the foothills of Azakher to al-Hujun in the west.
Professor al-Shariff pointed out that the well has been preserved from the expansion work that centers mainly on the Central District, aiming to develop and enlarge the space for Muslims north of the Holy Mosque. The main objective of this project is to construct pedestrian tunnels towards the Holy Mosque and to this end, 55 houses in Jarwal are now being demolished. The total number of houses already removed for this particular project amounts to 1,400.
Al-Shariff concluded by saying that “Bir Tawa is an Arabic word that means a well covered with stone. This well has particular significance after it was proven that the Prophet (pbuh) spent the eve of his conquest of Mecca there, and launched his armies into the city through various routes.”
For his part, Dr. Fawaz Bin Ali al-Dahhas, a professor of Arab Peninsula history, told Asharq al-Awsat that Tawa is one of Mecca’s three valleys. Today, the well commonly known as Bir Tawa is completely covered, yet it is rumored that it was originally dug by Abd Shams bin Abd Manaf, whilst the earth was extracted by Aqil bin Abu Talib.
Al-Dahhas indicated that from his base at Bir Tawa, the Prophet (pbuh) ordered Zubair bin Awam –may God be pleased with him – to enter Mecca through Kada (al-Hujun), and ordered Khaled Bin al-Walid – may God be pleased with him – to enter the city through al-Lait, below Mecca, in the company of Arab tribes from Ghaffar, Aslam, Mazina and Juhaina. The Prophet (pbuh) himself moved through Azakher district.