A scale model of how the Grand Mosque in Makkah will look after its expansion and renovation. — Courtesy photo
By Amal Al-Sibai
The reign of King Abdullah has witnessed the largest transformation of the Grand Mosque in the history of the Kingdom. Pilgrims will no longer face many physical ordeals and health risks when performing their Haj and Umrah.
Once completed, the expansion of the Sa’y area will accommodate 300,000 pilgrims per hour to decrease congestion and facilitate the walk between the Safa and Marwa.
Once completed the Sa’y will comprise of three floors with a total surface area of 125,000 square meters. Extra escalators and elevators will be added to allow easy access and movement between floors. Empty spaces on each level will be provided for large groups to meet and wait for their fellow pilgrims.
Other improvements include signage indicating important landmarks and entry/exit points to the Grand Mosque and an advanced ventilation system that not only cools the air but also releases a refreshing mist.
Seba Mashara, who recently arrived from Syria to perform umrah told Saudi Gazette, “The last time I visited Makkah was over seven years ago. I was surprised by the noticeable improvements throughout the Grand Mosque. Although the Tawaf is still crowded, the Sa’y area was much more spacious, wider, and organized. However, seeing the domineering bulldozers and the disturbing noise pollution from the construction are a bit disturbing, but I hope the results will be very beneficial for all Muslims.”
Thai Consul General Chalee Ali Sakolvari was similarly impressed with the advances made in the Grand Mosque. He told Saudi Gazette, “I have seen tremendous changes and improvements in the transportation services, cleanliness, the general organization of the sites, and in the Jamarat. When I performed Haj 15 years ago, we encountered much difficulty, got stuck in massive traffic jams, and endured hardships. Today, due to the determination and hard work of the Saudi government we have performed our rituals with great ease. Overcrowding at the Jamarat has been alleviated so well by the four ‘new’ levels. Very few people from our Haj delegation suffered any form of illness this year as a direct result of the reduced crowding and excellent services.”
Architect Abdul Mohsen Bin Humaid, Director of Projects at the Two Grand Mosques, said, “Work will continue non-stop to ensure the completion of the expansion projects on the ground floor and first level of the Mataf just before Ramadan, when the number of pilgrims will increase exponentially. Evaluation and inspections on the speed of progress is taking place on a daily basis by our team of engineers. We can expect that within eighteen months, all the construction will be finished and the desired results fully achieved.”
View other photos in the Facebook album.