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Mataf expansion to double current capacity

A vast expansion project for the mataf, (the circumambulation space around the Kaaba), is currently under way. The new mataf when completed, after three years, will accommodate 130,000 pilgrims in an hour, while the current mataf capacity withstands 52,000 pilgrims.
The Grand Mosque’s Imam and Khatib, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, who is also president of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs, said in a recent statement that Haj and Umrah pilgrims will not face any difficulties due to lack of space, after the completion of the expansion work. He also added they would have direct access to the mataf from the outer squares, without crossing the ground floor of the mosque.
The expansion project will preserve the existing area, and will be parallel to it, but at a lower level.
“The work has been launched at the eastern side of the mataf, which has a bottleneck problem, as that side is running parallel to the masaa (the running area between Safa and Marwah). The bottle neck problem begins at the middle of the north eastern side and extends to the southern side up to the Al-Safa Gate of the Grand Mosque,” Al-Sudais said in a recent statement.
The expansion work will also put in place an integrated system to make tawaf and running between Safa and Marwah more disabled-friendly, the sheikh said.
“There will be a network of bridges and pedestrian pathways to reduce the crowding in the mosque,” he said.
The work will also ensure maximum safety and cleanliness at the mataf and other parts of the mosque, he added.
The move, which has been welcomed by senior religious scholars, will considerably reduce the crowding, especially during Haj season, when millions of pilgrims perform the tawaf, every day of Haj and the days preceding and succeeding it.
A major feature of the expansion work includes linking the present mataf with the area outside the Grand Mosque. The area behind the Ottoman structure will be demolished and re-built with one basement, three floors and a roof, all without pillars and all for tawaf
Minister of Haj, Bandar Hajjar said the authorities have no plans to restrict the number of pilgrims during the next Umrah season, denying reports that the number of pilgrims would be drastically cut to speed up the expansion work.
The expansion work began on Nov. 15, even though preparatory work started much earlier.

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