Local vendors say the flow of money through the Saudi holy city of Mecca has slowed during this year's Haj, amid lower pilgrim numbers and regional instability. As David Pollard reports, problems closer to home are also hurting.
They flow in to Mecca in their millions for the annual pilgrimage. The money flowing in to locals tills is less impressive. Business is down. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GOLD SALESMAN, ALI AL HIRABI, SAYING: "They come, but their situation isn't like it was when there was peace in the world. It's the Arab countries that are the problem." Conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are taking the shine off the shopping here. Though some also blame the situation at home. Spending cuts forced by low oil revenues. A budget deficit that hit a record 98 billion dollars last year. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HEAD OF THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF HAJ AND UMRAH, MARWAN SHAABAN, SAYING: "These all had an effect. Business has slowed by 50 per cent compared to last season." Saudi's non-oil sector is suffering too - shrinking in the first quarter of the year. Rising crude output could nudge private sector growth - but few expect a big bounce back. This year's post-pilgrimage Eid holiday - normally a time to splurge - may instead be a time to draw in the purse strings.