JEDDAH: HASSAN CHERUPPA | arab news staff
Published — Saturday 7 July 2012
Last update 8 July 2012 12:52 am
Islam’s two holy mosques are witnessing the largest ever expansion in their history.
After launching the massive expansion works of the Grand Mosque in Makkah in Ramadan last year, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has now issued an order to expand the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, a move described as “unprecedented”.
Under the move, the central Haram area will be expanded threefold.
Once the three-phase expansion is completed, the mosque will have a total area of 1.1 million square meters with the capacity to accommodate an additional 1.6 million worshippers.
The historic expansion will be made as part of a comprehensive plan that also encompasses development of the central Haram area and underdeveloped neighborhoods.
While lauding King Abdullah’s care in serving the two holy mosques and improving the facilities for the growing number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, described the new expansion work of the Prophet’s Mosque as unprecedented.
He said the first phase of the expansion would cover construction of multistory buildings within the periphery of the existing northern courtyard, and the flat roof of the entire mosque structure after the expansion would have a total area of about 1.1 million square meters.
There will be a main gate for the new building with two main minarets and two side minarets at the corners of the building.
The first phase will add prayer space with a capacity to accommodate 800,000 worshippers.
In the second and third phases, the eastern and western courtyards will be added to the mosque and thus increasing the capacity by another 800,000 to add the capacity of the mosque to accommodate another 1.6 million.
According to sources, the expansion project also covers massive development of the central Haram area and the unplanned neighborhoods, with the holy mosque as the core center.
The expansion will draw on the rich Islamic history of the Prophet’s city and the Islamic architectural designs of the mosque. The surrounding buildings will also be developed on the same pattern.
Public squares close to the mosque and utilities in the area will also be developed. The role of the holy mosque as the civilian and spiritual heart of the city will be highlighted while implementing the plan.
For developing the area, the comprehensive plan suggested more residential, commercial, recreational and security facilities and services should be made available.
The expansion work will enable smooth pedestrian movement. The area’s development will be realized in a way facilitating the flow of pilgrims and visitors to the mosque easily and comfortably by ensuring accommodation for them in the area.
Also, the area will be developed to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims and visitors, while maintaining the status of the mosque as the central Islamic symbol both in architectural and spiritual realms.
According to the plan, the central Haram area will be surrounded by a new ring road heading south, east and north and a middle ring road heading west.
With the new borders, the area will be three times bigger than the present one.
The area is also designed to have increased capacity for accommodation, commercial firms and facilities in the service and security sectors to take advantage of increased pilgrims and visitors to the mosque.
The plan calls for initiating an extensive planning and design works for a public transport system to link the primary routes to the city’s historic places, Haramain Railway and the holy mosque.
The plan also recommends carrying out detailed engineering studies on a new ring road and new Kakiya road, in addition to construction of pedestrian tunnels and bridges to facilitate smooth movement of pilgrims during peak hours.
According to the plan, the central Haram area can create more development opportunities with the participation of the private sector through redevelopment of the region to make available more residential facilities.
The comprehensive plan also proposes working out a new general design for the development of underdeveloped regions around the central Haram area.
This will be achieved through construction of roads, setting up of public utilities and infrastructure facilities.
Also, the plan recommends the maximum elevation of buildings in the area will be 16 floors.
With the completion of the new expansion project, all residential areas of old Madinah city will become part the mosque complex.
The mosque witnessed two major expansions after the foundation of the Kingdom. The first one was during the time of King Abdul Aziz, the Kingdom's founder, in 1949.
Work on the expansion started in July 1951 and took nine years to complete.
The second one, ordered by King Fahd, started in 1984 and was completed in 1994.
The ground floor of the mosque has an area of 98,500 sq. meters accommodating 167,000 worshippers, the roof has an area of 67,000 sq. meters accommodating 90,000 worshippers and the surrounding plaza a total area of 235,000 sq. meters accommodating 450,000 worshippers.
The total area of the mosque and its plaza is 400,500 sq. meters accommodating 707,000 worshippers but at peak times as many as million worshippers could be in the mosque at any one time.