Saudi Gazette report
MAKKAH — The mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) will have the capacity to hold 105,000 worshippers in an hour with the completion of the first phase of the expansion project during the fasting month of Ramadan, which will begin on July 9, it was announced on Saturday.
The entire roof of the Grand Mosque and mataf will have air-conditioned sunshades, said Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques. He made the remarks during a ceremony to launch an exhibition on mataf expansion at the headquarters of the presidency. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of the Makkah region, opened the exhibition. The exhibition showcases more than 50 artworks illustrating, for the first time, the current position of mataf, phases of its expansion, and future design plans, in addition to two huge models about the phases of expansion.
Sheikh Al-Sudais briefed the Emir on the mataf expansion plan and its features. After watching a documentary film on various phases of the expansion, Prince Khaled also launched the project for the expansion of the presidency building with an additional two floors, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Al-Sudais said people can get to know all details about the project by visiting the exhibition. He said the ongoing expansion project will be completed within three years, and that was in line with the instructions of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
“Up to first floor of the new mataf will be completed in the first phase in Ramadan, and it will have five floors with the completion of the three-phase project within three years. The presidency is also keen to achieve the expansion with a total of seven floors with air-conditioned sunshade for the holy mosque and the mataf as well,” he said, adding that the works have been intensified to complete the project on time as per schedule.
Al-Sudais said the expansion plan also consists of an automated system for the garbage disposal and centralized cleaning besides a monitoring system for hygiene of buildings. The expansion is being carried out on the basis of a plan prepared by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj and Umrah Research. The plan focuses on making maximum use of available space while maintaining the architectural features of the Grand Mosque.
According to the plan, the mataf will be separated from prayer areas of the mosque and will be linked to different levels of the mosque, with entrances to and exits from the mataf on all levels, and direct access from the mataf to the masaa (the running area between the mounts of Safa and Marwa). There is also a plan to connect all courtyards of the mosque with the mataf area via escalators to facilitate smooth flow of pilgrims. The current mataf is a circle with a diameter of 95 meters and a capacity for 28,000 people per hour, though at peak seasons it rises to 40,000 people per hour.
Al-Sudais said that the presidency is currently seeking alternative arrangements for the elderly and the disabled to perform tawaf and saai. He noted that the government is keen to use top quality and high standard goods and systems that would ensure safety and sustainability of the project with fulfilling all the operational and environmental requirements irrespective of the cost for them. The presidency chief also welcomed suggestions and proposals by posting them on its website.
King Abdullah last year launched the largest ever expansion of the Grand Mosque in history, which will increase the mosque’s capacity to more than 2.5 million worshippers at a cost SR80 billion.