“It is because of the sacredness and glory of the location, which calls for the highest care and attention of the servants of Islam and Muslims. Those servants who spared no effort in fulfilling their covenant to their Lord will no doubt receive His blessings ever more,” the minister said in a statement.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah laid the foundation stone for the historic expansion, which covers 400,000 square meters northwest and northeast of the mosque, and will increase its total capacity to more than 2.5 million.
The expansion projects are designed to make Haj and Umrah pilgrimages more comfortable and safer in the face of a phenomenal rise in the number of pilgrims over the past few years, Al-Eissa added.
“This momentous Islamic initiative to provide room for the increasing number of worshippers, particularly the expansion of the masaa (the running course between Safa and Marwa), will remove the hardships faced by pilgrims and enable them to perform their rites in a more relaxed and spiritual atmosphere,” he said.
The minister added that King Abdullah always gave his priority to undertake tasks that would provide a serene and relaxed atmosphere for pilgrims in the holy cities.
GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani commended King Abdullah for initiating the new Haram expansion that would improve facilities for the guests of God. He said the new project would meet the requirements of the increasing number of pilgrims.
Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf announced the new expansion project would cost SR80 billion, which would include the money required to pay compensation to owners of real estates appropriated for the project.
Saleh Al-Hosain, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, praised experts at Saudi universities for preparing the best, environmentally friendly designs for the expansion while incorporating high safety standards. “As King Abdullah wished, the whole Islamic world would be proud of the new expansion project,” Al-Hosain said.
A documentary screened during the launching ceremony said the expansion’s main gate would be named after King Abdullah and will have two minarets, bringing the mosque’s total number to 11.
According to informed sources, the total area of the existing Grand Mosque is 356,000 sq. meters accommodating 770,000 worshippers while the new expansion covering an area of 456,000 sq. meters will accommodate 1.2 million.
The new project will comprise three parts: construction of a new building; expansion and development of courtyards around the mosque, including walkways, tunnels and toilets; and development of service facilities for air-conditioning, electricity and drinking water.
A number of new multistoried hotels will establish at the end of the courtyards of the new expansion. Vast pathways will be created between the buildings for pilgrims and worshippers to reach the mosque. The project also covers development of the Jabal Hindi area.
Abdullah bin Zubair Street will be developed to become a main artery linking Hajoun Street and the first and second ring roads.
A 1,200-meter tunnel will be constructed from the end of the expansion passing through Jabal Hindi while another tunnel with a length of 1,100 meters will be built under Jabal Madafie. An emergency 700-meter tunnel crossing the other two tunnels will be constructed from Jabal Al-Kaaba.
During Friday’s ceremony, King Abdullah also inaugurated the Makkah Tower Clock, considered the largest in the world; the concept of Makkah Time similar to Greenwich Mean Time; the newly expanded masaa (the running course between Safa and Marwa); the King Abdul Aziz endowment towers; the Jamrat Bridge complex in Mina; the Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa; and the sunshades around the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
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 SR100 billion.
"Every SR1 billion spent by the government would encourage the private sector to invest an additional SR5 billion. This way public investment would have a multiple effect on the economy," the mayor said.