JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah arrived in Makkah on Wednesday night to spend the remaining days of Ramadan in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque and lay the foundation stone for the largest Haram expansion project in history.
King Abdullah was greeted on arrival at Al-Safa Palace in Makkah by senior princes and officials including Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Supreme Judiciary Council Chairman Saleh bin Humaid, and Saleh Al-Hosain, head of the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques (PTHM).
Muhammad Al-Khozaim, vice president of PTHM, said the new expansion to be launched by King Abdullah on Friday would increase the Grand Mosque’s capacity by nearly 1.2 million worshippers. The new project covers 400,000 square meters in the northwest and northeast of the mosque. Real estate properties appropriated for the project are valued at more than SR40 billion.
King Abdullah ordered the new expansion to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims who come from different parts of the world. During the peak days of Ramadan, thousands of worshippers stand in the courtyards and streets around the mosque for taraweeh and qiyamullail prayers.
Al-Khozaim disclosed plans to expand the mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Holy Kaaba) and provide air-conditioning for all parts of the Grand Mosque, adding that the two schemes would be carried out shortly along with the new Haram expansion project.
Abdullah Al-Asheikh, chairman of the Shoura Council, said the latest expansion would herald a new era in the history of the Grand Mosque. He commended the king’s special care for the two holy mosques, adding that Muslims all over the world admire the royal gesture.
Al-Asheikh described the King Abdul Aziz residential towers as the largest endowment project whose revenues would be used for the development of the Grand Mosque. He also noted the initiative taken by the king to expand the masaa (the pathway between Safa and Marwa), increasing its capacity from 44,000 to 118,000 pilgrims per hour.
A senior official at PTHM said once the new expansion is completed, the Grand Mosque would be able to accommodate more than 2 million worshippers at a time. The project has 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, he said.
The expansion starts from the Masjid Al-Haram Street on the east and extends to Khaled bin Walid Street on the west. It also covers Muddae, Abusufyan, Raquba and Abdullah bin Zubair streets in Shamiya as well as parts of Jabal Hindi and old districts of Harrat Al-Bab before reaching Jabal Al-Kaaba Street.
Other projects to be launched officially by the king include the Makkah Tower Clock, considered the largest in the world; the newly expanded masaa; the King Abdul Aziz endowment towers; the newly developed Jamrat Bridge complex in Mina; and the Mashair railway linking the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa.
By P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR | ARAB NEWS