Saudi Arabia to restart work on $26.6bn Grand Mosque expansion

Construction cranes are seen outside the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Saudi Arabia to restart work on $26.6bn Grand Mosque expansion

DUBAI: Saudi Binladin Group will restart work next month on the $26.6 billion expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, nearly two years after work stopped in the wake of a crane collapse at the site that killed 107 people, sources told Reuters on Thursday.
Work will resume after the annual Hajj pilgrimage, and Saudi Binladin will pay outstanding salaries owed to staff involved in the project beginning on Aug. 20, according to a notice that the company sent to banks and which was seen by Reuters.
Banking and construction industry sources confirmed the plan. Saudi Binladin, one of the country’s top construction conglomerates, and the Ministry of Finance were not immediately available to comment.
Development of the Grand Mosque and its surrounding area to accommodate more worshippers was halted after the fatal construction accident in September 2015, and then remained on hold as government finances were squeezed by low oil prices.
The government is now enjoying a moderate recovery in oil income, and it is keen to resume work on big religious tourism and infrastructure schemes as part of a drive to diversify the economy beyond oil exports.
Its plan to restart construction at the Grand Mosque is a fresh sign of the rehabilitation of Saudi Binladin, which was temporarily banned from winning new state contracts after the crane collapse and has been damaged financially by a deep slump in the construction sector.
The Ministry of Finance has allocated a portion of this year’s budget to key projects and has been in talks with Saudi Binladin in recent weeks about restarting several big schemes, the sources said. The ministry pledged to make payments that would enable Binladin to pay its staff, they said.
Another stalled government project in which Saudi Binladin is involved, the $3.5 billion construction of the Abraj Kudai hotel complex in Makkah, will restart in coming months, sources told Reuters earlier this week.

The company also restarted work earlier this year on the new King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.


Saudi Cultural Exhibition concludes in Moscow

Seven Saudi films from young local directors streamed during the exhibition. (SPA)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Saudi Cultural Exhibition concludes in Moscow

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cultural Exhibition in Moscow, organized by the General Culture Authority on the sidelines of the FIFA World Cup, has concluded its activities and events.
The four-day exhibition attracted a large number of visitors, who were informed about Saudi culture, art and heritage through short films, traditional costumes, folkloric shows, and books translated into Russian.
There were also various pavilions, including for Arabic calligraphy, Saudi hospitality, Arabic coffee, henna and fine art, as well as one aimed at children. Seven films by young Saudi directors were screened, and were well received by audiences.
Seven Saudi films from young local directors streamed during the exhibition.
The exhibition was part of the General Culture Authority’s efforts to inform people about Saudi culture, art and identity.