Central Haram area to be tripled

Updated 08 July 2012
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Central Haram area to be tripled

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.


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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