Prophet’s Mosque to accommodate two million worshippers after expansion

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Updated 26 September 2012
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Prophet’s Mosque to accommodate two million worshippers after expansion

JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques 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 king stressed the significance of the completion of the project at its earliest considering the greatness of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said.
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, Al-Assaf said, shedding more light on the new expansion at the Madinah mosque for which the king laid the foundation stone on Monday.
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.
While the first phase of the expansion will facilitate more than 800,000 worshippers, the second and third phases will give room for more than a million worshippers, media reports said.
Altogether the new expansion will create an additional space for 1.2 million worshippers by 2040.
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 would be completed this year to make up for the shortfall, according to local media reports, according to a local newspaper report.
“The Central Zone will undergo near total reconstruction including the expansion of existing utilities to cope with the increasing number of pilgrims and visitors to the mosque in the coming years. Currently the present space in the mosque and surrounding squares is put at 550,000 to 780,000,” the report 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.
The project, which aims to accommodate 1.2 million worshippers by the year 2040, will also develop the surrounding buildings known as Al-Ruwaq, which will serve as a gateway between the city and the mosque. The common and community plazas will be developed to fulfill their role as the social and spiritual hub of the city.
The comprehensive plan for the development of the mosque also demands the acquisition of all needed private properties under the public sector
ownership.
The comprehensive plan for the project also recommended that existing hotels in areas of reconstruction should be allowed to operate until actual work begins in their locations. This is to avoid inconvenience to pilgrims. The expansion to the northern side requires 12.5 hectares of land while its compensation of SR2.16 billion at the rate of SR400,000 per square meter will have to be paid to property owners. The total property compensation for the project is estimated at SR 25 billion.
The development of the Central Zone will have to consider the desire of visitors to the mosque to stay close to the mosque so that they can walk to the mosque for every prayer.
The design of the project will also preserve the status of the mosque as a symbol of Islam and its culture.
The plots to be acquired for northern plaza are near the Jabal Salae.
The proposed new ring road, Shari Arid Al-Janobi, which requires land worth SR2.8 billion, will be constructed at an estimated cost of SR972 million.
There will also be a number of pedestrian bridges and underpasses to help pedestrians in huge numbers to cross the new road.
The development of the Central Zone will also allow for increased private investment in the housing, shopping and hospitality sectors.
The project’s comprehensive plan also aims to develop the unplanned neighborhoods close to the Central Zone including new utility infrastructures and start work on a priority basis determined by the plan. There should be a public sector mechanism to buy property and get rid of or refurbish buildings that do not match the development plan.
King Abdul Aziz ordered the expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque with the addition of 6,024 square meters in 1950 while the expansion of 40,440 square meter was ordered by King Faisal in 1974. King Khaled allocated the land south west of the mosque for the worshippers’ service in 1997 and during the reign of King Fahd, the mosque’s space reached 384,000 square meters.
The Prophet (pbuh) built his mosque in the first year of Hijrah (622 AD) and undertook its first expansion in 7th Hijri year (629 AD) after his return from a campaign in Khaybar. The second Caliph Umar bin Al-Khattab and third Caliph Uthman bin Affan also expanded the mosque, followed by Umayyad King Waleed bin Abdul Malik in 706 AD.


Adventures that prove the Empty Quarter is teeming with life

Unseen vistas of life in the vast Arabian desert. (AN photo)
Updated 19 min 8 sec ago
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Adventures that prove the Empty Quarter is teeming with life

  • The Empty Quarter is, in fact, so full of life that it is nearly impossible for anyone to explore and experience it completely in a lifetime

It is quite unbecoming to call a place “empty” — and rather too easy, as well. It is just another lazy way to label a location. That has been the case with Rub Al-Khali, the Empty Quarter, which is the largest contiguous desert, or erg, in the world.

Describing this particular place as “empty” is an irony. The Empty Quarter is, in fact, so full of life that it is nearly impossible for anyone to explore and experience it completely in a lifetime. The book “Camels in the Sky: Travels in Arabia” by Indian author V. Muzafer Ahamed, does, however, reveal and describe an incredible amount of the life, in its full spectrum, to be found among the Arabian dunes.

The author’s work in Saudi Arabia as a journalist for a Malayalam-language daily newspaper led him to the desert and its inhabitants. He admits he was initially reluctant to journey into the harsh terrain, especially after an early, bitter experience during his rural reporting assignment. 

He recounts how a subsequent accidental encounter with a Bedouin sowed the seeds of his desert travel adventures. Had it not been for the resultant irresistible temptation to discover the unfathomed other side of the “severity of the desert,” he would have ended up being just another migrant worker in the Saudi city of Jeddah, totally unaware of the nuances of life in the great Arabian desert.

“Camels in the Sky” is a collection of Ahamed’s travel essays, translated from Malayalam by P. J. Mathew, that record the glimpses of desert life the author was given during his adventures in Saudi Arabia over a period of 13 years. They reveal some hitherto largely unseen vistas of life in the desert villages of the Kingdom, which will come as a surprise to readers who have no clue about the variety of life to be found on this part of the planet.

The author is our guide on a deep journey through the hidden alleys of desert life, sketching a vivid and detailed picture along the way. Much like the magical vision of Garcia Marques (a comparison made by the translator in his introduction to the book), Ahamed’s unique perspective on desert life provokes in the reader a massive urge to make similar forays into the locations he describes.

The book begins with a tale of utmost relevance in the modern world: A water war. Water has always been a valuable commodity in the desert, of course, even before it became a serious matter of discussion elsewhere. That the author’s first major encounter with Saudi life is related to this much-valued resource is more than just a coincidence; it is the light that led him toward exploring and uncovering the specificities of life in the Kingdom.

Although personal injuries he suffered in Sakaka initially threatened to extinguish the spirit of the traveler, he was inspired to carry on with his adventure by an encounter with Abd’ Rehman, a Bedouin he met in a restaurant in Jeddah. The travel bug that bit the author eventually took him to every corner of the vast country and the result is the invaluable collection of life sketches found in this book.

Ahamed leads us through a series of diverse stories and experiences to prove that the desert is teeming with life. From historical accounts of the Kinda to the perils of travel through harsh desert terrain to tales of vast civilizations and heritage, the author leaves no stone unturned along his way.

Then there is the relentless spirit of the hardy ghaf tree, which survives on the rare sprinkles of rain that come once in a decade or so; the stories of an anonymous man who rescues travelers in the desert; the adventures in the mighty sand traps; the mating of beetles; birdhouses in the desert; the different shades of sand; and camels in all their glory. Through these tales and more, Ahamed paints a vivid and complete picture of a land that is so little explored.

A unique feature of his writing style is the way he blends Arabian life with historical and literary references and analogies from elsewhere in the world, thereby drawing parallels between life in this less-navigated landscape with that in the other parts of the world.

“Camels in the Sky” offers not only a unique reading experience but also plants seeds that can grow into a love of travel and the urge to venture into the unknown corridors of life. The book is a reminder of the vast ocean of experiences that our blue planet has in store for those prepared to set sail.