ISLAMABAD: Work has begun on the demolition of old structures, built during the first Saudi expansion, and the old Haram, so as to facilitate the expansion of the Grand Mosque as part of the King Abdullah Grand Mosque Expansion Project, it was announced on Sunday.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the two holy Mosques, told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the new constructions are part of the second phase of the ongoing expansion of the mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba).
“This phase would cover about 25,000 square metres, almost double the area of the first phase. With the completion of the second phase, the capacity to accommodate tawaf performers will rise to 75,000 per hour,” he said.
Citing details of the project, Sheikh Sudais said: The second phase begins from where the first phase ended at the north side of the mataf and will reach up to King Fahd Gate, which was constructed during the second Saudi expansion after passing through the Umrah Gate and the area opposite it in the direction of the mataf.
This phase includes reconstruction of Al-Fatah Gate and its surrounding area as well as the outer surrounding area facing the northern courtyard.
The old passageway will be dismantled and reconstructed to facilitate the movement of pilgrims inside the mataf.
Construction of the first mezzanine floor, which is designated for pilgrims with special needs, with a width of 10 metres, has also begun.
The new construction sites have been barricaded after ensuring passages to facilitate smooth and safe flow of worshipers from the mataf to the masaa (running area between Safa and Marwa).
Sheikh Sudais said work will continue until the beginning of next Ramazan so as to enable the faithful to take advantage of the basement floor as well as the ground and first floors of the mataf while the terrace will be opened during the next Haj season.
The new buildings and all levels of the mataf will have staircases and escalators to ensure smooth flow of worshipers, he said.
Sheikh Sudais said work on the first level of the temporary circular bridge over the mataf, designed for the disabled and elderly pilgrims, and connecting it to the ground floor of the mosque and outer courtyards will also be completed before Ramadan.
Sheikh Sudais opened the top and second levels of the bridge that connects the first floor of the mosque on July 25. The 12- meter-wide and 13-meter-high bridge can accommodate 1,700 wheelchairs in an hour.
The bridge will be used by disabled people until the completion of the mataf expansion work that started on Nov.15 last year.
Described as the `Project of the Century’, the King Abdullah Expansion Project, costing over SR100 billion, is designed to increase the mosque’s capacity to more than two million worshipers.