JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published — Thursday 4 July 2013
Last update 4 July 2013 5:42 am
SAUDI Arabia has given utmost importance for the development of the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah to meet requirements of the growing number of pilgrims who come from different parts of the world for Haj and Umrah. According to informed sources, the government has spent more than SR 250 billion on Haram and Haj expansion.
Ever since he ascended the Saudi throne in August 2005, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has given special attention for the development of the two holy mosques and improving facilities for pilgrims. The two Haram mosques are currently witnessing massive expansion projects, which will increase their capacity to more than two million worshippers each.
The project includes expansion of mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) in order to increase its capacity from 48,000 to 130,000 per hour. The ongoing work has reduced the mataf’s capacity to 22,000 per hour, a reason that prompted the government to reduce the number of foreign Haj pilgrims by 20 percent and domestic pilgrims by 50 percent, in order to prevent stampedes and ensure the security and safety of the guests of God.
The current expansion project at the Grand Mosque in Makkah is estimated to cost more than SR 100 billion. It is designed to increase the mosque’s capacity to more than 2 million worshippers. Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, commended King Abdullah for initiating the project to enhance facilities for the millions of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah every year.
Yahya Binladin, deputy chairman of Binladin Group, said advanced systems have been used in the new expansion to ensure the smooth flow of pilgrims, especially during peak seasons. It includes security monitoring and garbage disposal systems in addition to sunshades in the courtyards around the mosque. The new extension would be linked to the existing building with bridges. It will have an advanced air-conditioning and lighting system. It covers 456,000 square meters in the northwest and northeast of the mosque.
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Khozaim, vice president of the presidency, described the expansion as the project of the century. The total area of the existing Grand Mosque is 356,000 square meters accommodating 770,000 worshipers while the new expansion will accommodate 1.2 million during congregational prayers.
While launching the Makkah Haram expansion, King Abdullah also inaugurated the Makkah Tower Clock, the Makkah Time, the newly expanded masaa (the running course between Safa and Marwa); the King Abdul Aziz endowment towers; the Jamrat Bridge complex in Mina; and the Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar said the new projects launched by King Abdullah would boost business in Makkah and help the holy city attract new investments worth SR 100 billion. “Every SR 1 billion spent by the government would encourage the private sector to invest an additional SR 5 billion. This way the public investment would have a multiple effect on the economy,” the mayor said.
King Abdullah has ordered that works for the expansion project of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah should start immediately in order for it to be completed in less than two years. The mosque building will sprawl over an area of 614,800 square meters or 1060 X 580 meters while the combined space of the mosque and plazas will be 1,020,500 square meters or 1300 X 785 meters, which can accommodate 1 million worshippers inside the mosque and 800,000 worshippers in the plaza.
When completed, the mosque will have two major minarets in addition to smaller minarets at four sides. The Central Zone surrounding the mosque will triple in size compared to present area with greater room for residences, shopping areas, utility and security and will be surrounded a new ring road.
The project will remove 23 hotels from the Central Zone (the area around the mosque), which is feared to create a shortage of 4,760 rooms to accommodate those who visit the mosque. On the other hand, 21 new hotel projects will make up the shortfall.
“The Central Zone will undergo total face lift, including the expansion of existing utilities to cope with the increasing number of pilgrims and visitors to the mosque in the coming years,” one source said. The present space in the mosque and surrounding squares is put at 550,000 to 780,000, the source added.
The plazas in the eastern and the western sides of the mosque will be developed. The buildings surrounding the plazas will be built matching the urban development and in line with the rich Islamic cultural history of Madinah.
Plans are under way to establish a state-of-the-art pilgrim city in Madinah on an area of 1.6 million square meters along Hijrah Road with modern facilities and public transport systems to house 200,000 faithful. “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has instructed the Finance Ministry to implement the project,” said Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman.
State-owned Public Investment Fund will finance the project, which is located close to the Prophet’s Mosque, the governor said. It includes a railway and bus station, offices of government agencies and a 400-bed hospital. A number of hotels and furnished apartments will be constructed in the new city.