SR300bn Makkah projects to expand pilgrim services

Updated 16 August 2013
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SR300bn Makkah projects to expand pilgrim services

New projects worth more than SR300 billion are being implemented in Makkah to improve services being rendered to millions of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah, said Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.
He said the new development projects in Makkah, including largest expansion of the Grand Mosque, were not aimed at making any financial gains for the Kingdom but to enhance facilities for the guests of God who are growing in numbers year after year.
“The ongoing Haram expansion project, the largest in history, is being carried out on an area of 400,000 square meters. It will double the mosque’s capacity to two million worshippers,” the governor said.
The new Haram project has six main components: Expansion of its plazas; construction of bridges and pedestrian pathways; new service buildings; health centers; civil defense office; a central air-conditioning station; and a reserve power plant.
“There are plans to construct more pathways and tunnels around the mosque as part of the project,” he said, adding that all these works would facilitate the movement of pilgrims.
Prince Khaled stressed the significance of the SR69 billion Makkah public transport project, including a metro system, adding that it would ensure smooth flow of traffic inside the city.
He also said the King Abdullah Project for the Development of Makkah and Holy Sites aims at increasing the present capacity of Mina and linking the holy sites with Makkah with an advanced transport system.
The ongoing expansion of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah will increase its capacity to 80 million passengers, he said. KAIA is the main gateway of pilgrims.
“The Haramain Railway will reduce the waiting time of pilgrims at KAIA and will carry more than three million passengers annually,” the governor said.
The railway linking Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah will have a length of 480 km.
He referred to government’s plan to set up a full-fledged pilgrim city in Makkah with housing units, offices of Haj service providers and exhibition centers.
The expansion of masaa, the running area between the Safa and Marwa inside the mosque, has increased its capacity to 188,000 pilgrims per hour, he said.


Saudis back ‘life-changing’ reform allowing women to drive, survey reveals

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago
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Saudis back ‘life-changing’ reform allowing women to drive, survey reveals

  • A major poll shows an overwhelming majority of Saudis agree with the ground-breaking reform giving women the right to drive.
  • In a poll of Saudi nationals conducted by Arab News/YouGov, 77 percent of Saudis said they agreed with the decision to allow women to drive.

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia’s women prepare to take the driver’s seat and make history, a major poll shows an overwhelming majority of Saudis agree with the ground-breaking reform giving them the right to drive.
In a poll of Saudi nationals conducted by Arab News/YouGov, 77 percent of Saudis said they agreed with the decision to allow women to drive. The results also showed that most Saudi women are eager and ready to start driving.
The survey of more than 500 Saudis showed 82 percent of women and 71 percent of men supported the decision.
A number of women across Saudi Arabia who held international licenses have already been issued with Saudi driving licenses, with numbers expected to rise in future. A report by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated that up to 150,000 women would get driving licenses in Saudi Arabia annually.
The poll found one of the main reasons for supporting women driving is that it allows more freedom of movement, with 35 percent saying it will provide easier access to employment for women.
According to the poll, lifting the ban on women driving will help to increase female participation in the workforce, as most women who plan to drive will do so in order to get to work.
Another major reason cited was the economic boost, with 42 percent saying that lifting the driving ban will give women more employment opportunities.
The automotive industry can also expect a financial lift with 85 percent of Saudi women planning to buy cars once the ban is lifted.
The transportation industry as well could benefit, as the move will create more jobs for women in the industry. Careem plans to create 100,000 jobs for female drivers. Uber says it will open its first “female partner support center” in Saudi Arabia and recruit women to work for the company.
The reform will help improve equality in society, according to 28 percent of people polled. A third of those polled pointed to an increase in household income due to more women entering the workforce and the fact that families no longer have to pay for drivers.
Four in 10 people agreed that the move is a major step in a series of broad reforms under the banner of Vision 2030.
Two-thirds of women questioned said the decision would transform their lives. In the past, male members of the family had to make time to perform driving- related errands, including driving their spouse, children, parents and family members around. Women can now take on such tasks, which would have a big impact on people’s lives.
However, 23 percent of people polled expressed their discomfort with women driving — the move was more popular with women than men as only 70 percent of males agreed with movement compared with 82 percent of females.
Fifty-four percent of participants feared that it would be unsafe for women to drive, while 36 percent claimed it broke with local cultural traditions.
Other concerns were that it would create too much freedom in society, as there is a belief that a male relative should accompany a woman in public. Some also said that allowing women to drive violates religious teachings.