Expansion of the Two Holy Mosques was given top priority by King Abdul Aziz and his successors for the service of Islam and Muslims. They were aware that Holy Mosque could not support the growing numbers of worshippers and also overseeing the well-being of the pilgrims undertaking the annual Hajj. The implementation of the expansion projects aimed at enabling pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors of the Holy Places to perform their rituals in comfort and ease. A long and glorious tradition of expansion surrounds the Haram Mosque, dating back to 638 AD, when the increasing number of conversions to Islam led the second Caliph, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, to develop the site.
History of Haramain ExpansionWhen King Abdul Aziz established the modern Saudi State, one of his primary concerns, like that of the early Caliphs, was his role in overseeing the well-being of the pilgrims undertaking the annual Hajj. He initiated a refurbishment and expansion programme. The achievements of King Abdul Aziz were unparalleled since the last expansion of the Holy Haram 1,096 years ago in the era of the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Muqtadir Billah. Efforts of the Ottoman Sultan, Saleem and his son Sultan Murad (1576) were confined to refurbishing the Mosque, not expanding it.
The expansion begun by King Abdul Aziz and completed during the reign of King Saud, was aimed at building a path 394 meters long and 20 metres (65 ft) wide close to the Masaa, and a 9-metre (30 ft) high second floor over the Masaa, in addition to a 2-way barrier and a path for disabled people in wheelchairs in the Masaa. The Masaa has 16 gates on the eastern side in addition to two entrances for the second floor, one at Al Safa and the other at Al Marwa.
The expansion of the Two Holy Mosques was given priority by King Abdul Aziz, Saud, Faisal and Khalid and totaled 131,041 square metres (157,250 square yards), compared to the Mosque’s previous area of 29,127 square metres (34,800 sq. yards.). This raised the total area to 160,168 sqaure metres (192,000 sq.yds.)
The King Fahd’s expansion of the Haramein project had a number of aims primarily the improvement, redecoration and expansion of the Holy Mosque, its courtyards and facilities, so that it can accommodate the largest possible number of worshippers. The most advanced technical innovations were used to facilitate movement and prayer for pilgrims and visitors to the Haram and access to the cooled, pure water of “Zamzam”.
Work on the new project began on September 13, 1988 when the King laid the foundation stone. The project included the addition of a new part to the Mosque from the Western side between the Umrah Gate and the King’s Gate. The area of the expansion floors totaled 76,000 square metres including the ground, first and basement floors, accommodating some 152,000 worshippers. The projects also include furnishing the mosque’s outer yards for prayer, an area totaling 85,000 sq. metres and accommodating 130,000 worshippers.
This raised the Sacred Mosque’s total area to about 365,000 square meters, accommodating 773,000 worshippers on normal days and more than one million during Hajj season and the holy month of Ramadan. The project also included the construction of a 750-metre long, 24 to 36 metre wide basement under the prayer area to the east of the Masaa.
A new air-conditioning system was devised. For this purpose, a station has been setup in Ajiad with a total capacity of 13,500 cooling tons. A new 2-storied toilet building covering an area of 14,000 sq. metres was built to the north of Masaa area. It contains 1440 toilets, 1091 ablution points and 162 drinking water taps. Separate toilets have been set aside for women complete with separate entrances.
The area of the basement totaled 20,000 squares, accommodating 33,000 worshippers. The area of the first floor totaled 47,000 square metres, accommodating 77,000 worshippers, the area of the roof after improvements totaled 42,000 square metres, accommodating 90,000 worshippers. There are 56 escalators.
The Tawaf area was tiled with heat-dissipating marble, doors were renewed and the Mosque’s library was established at a total cost of SR. 80 million. There are 55,000 lighting lamps connected by wires, whose combined length totaled 35,000 metres.
Haramain Expansion Projects by King Abdullah
To further improve both Hajj services and pilgrims’ facilities, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah ordered additional expansions to the Grand Mosque. Described as the largest in Muslim history, the project will create additional prayer space for more than a million worshippers.
King Abdullah’s Haram Expansion Project
King Abdullah officially launched on Friday, 19th of August, 2011, the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque in history, which will increase the Mosque’s capacity to more than 2.5 million worshippers and cost 80 billion Saudi Riyals. The new project covers 400,000 square meters in the northwest and northeast of the mosque. The new project will comprise 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. The new expansion project would cost SR80 billion, which would include the money required to pay compensation to owners of real estates appropriated for the project. Real estate properties appropriated for the project are valued at more than SR.40 billion A 1,200-meter tunnel would be constructed from the end of the expansion passing through Jabal Hindi while another tunnel with a length of 1,100 meters will be built under Jabal Madafie. An emergency 700-meter tunnel crossing the other two tunnels will be constructed from Jabal Al-Ka’aba. The project also include plans to expand the mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Holy Ka’aba) and provide air-conditioning for all parts of the Grand Mosque, adding that the two schemes would be carried out shortly along the new Haram Expansion project. The latest expansion would herald a new era in the history of the Grand Mosque. Masaa, the area between Safa and Marwa, which is located inside the mosque has been expanded to help pilgrims perform the sa’ie ritual more easily and comfortably. The new expansion will be linked with the existing mosque and Masaa (the running course between Safa and Marwa) with a series of bridges, increasing its capacity from 44,000 to 118,000 pilgrims per hour. It will also provide with air conditioning systems and electric stairs. Once the new expansion is completed, the Grand Mosque would be able to accommodate more than 2 million worshippers at a time. According to informed sources, the total area of the existing Haram Mosque is 356,000 square meters accommodating 770,000 worshippers while the new expansion covering an area of 456,000 square meters will accommodate 1.2 million faithful. The official noted that there will be basic facilities including modern garbage disposal systems and security monitoring systems as part of the new expansion. Sun shades will also be established on the northern courtyards of the mosque. King Abdullah also ordered another expansion at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah at a cost of more than SR4 billion. It includes the installation of 182 sunshades in courtyards around the mosque for the benefit of 200,000 worshippers. The mosque’s eastern courtyard has been expanded, creating additional prayer place for 70,000 worshippers. With the completion of the new expansion project, all residential areas of old Madinah will become part the mosque complex. As part of the government’s efforts in the service of pilgrims, several projects have been carried out in Makkah and also at the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. The Grand Mosque underwent significant expansion in the mid-1980s, but the number of Muslim pilgrims has steadily grown, requiring another expansion. King Abdullah also officially inaugurated the Makkah Tower Clock, considered the largest in the world; the Makkah Time, the newly expanded masaa (the running course between Safa and Marwa); the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Towers; the Jamarat Bridge complex in Mina; and the Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa as well as the sunshades around the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah by pressing buttons. In order to lower the temperature in the surrounding areas of the Masjid al-Haram, water sprinklers have been installed.
Expansion of Masa’a
King Abdullah took expansion projects of Masa’a. Masaa, the area between Safa and Marwa, which is located inside the mosque has been expanded to help pilgrims perform the Sa’ie ritual more easily and comfortably. Now the pilgrims can perform Sa’ie very easily and comfortably from all five levels, basement which is fully air-conditioned, ground, first floor, second, third floor and from the roof. Jamarat Bridge ProjectThe fifth and final phase of the SR 4.2 billion Jamarat Bridge Project has five floors. The project is now complete and ready for pilgrims during this year’s Hajj. The completion of the Jamarat project allows for the throwing of pebbles from all five levels of the bridge. The ground floor and second floor are allocated for pilgrims coming from the east of Mina. The third is reserved for those coming from Makkah, Al-Adl and Al-Sheshah. The fourth is for pilgrims coming from the north and also from Al-Muaisem, the eastern and western “Shebs.” The top floor is for those coming from Al Aziziyah and camps located south of Mina.
The bridge is 950 meters long and 80 meters wide. Each floor is 12 meters high. The entire project is designed to hold 12 stories and as many as five million pilgrims in the future if the need arises. The project also includes three tunnels and covers other construction work with the possibility of future development. The project provides 12 entrances and exits in all four directions. It has a helipad for airlifting pilgrims in case of emergency. The Jamarat project also includes an air-conditioning system backed by water sprinklers that can reduce the temperature to about 29 degrees Centigrade. The Jamarat Bridge also includes subways for underground traffic, providing more space for pedestrians in the bridge areas, in addition to six exits for emergency evacuation through six towers leading to the ground floor and tunnels as well as the helipads.
All floors have been air-conditioned. An advanced cooling system will be installed on the fifth floor through which water will be sprinkled over the main and surrounding areas. This is expected to lower the temperature by about 29 degrees Centigrade,” it is reported. The oval design of the pebbles basins and the three 40-meter-high pillars have improved the flow of pilgrims and increased the capacity of the bridge, which has helped to reduce congestion while Hajjis are performing the stoning ritual. The Arafat expansion has also been finished, it is also reported that the project, which started last year, provides a capacity for a further 900,000 pilgrims. The additional area is equivalent to about 25 percent of Arafat’s total initial area. The project involved paving main and subsidiary streets, establishing drainage and trimming trees,
Makkah Metro Monorail Project
The 20 km Makkah Metro monorail project, costing USS1.8 billion, was launched last year, 2010, to link the Grand Mosque with Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa, to ease pilgrim transport. It includes the construction of nine railway stations in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah, each 300 meters long. The metro railway is designed to operate 17 trains with 12 coaches in each train. A train will carry 30,000 pilgrims. It operated at a third of its capacity during the Hajj season of 2010. It will operate 20 trains this year, i.e. 2011, when fully commissioned. Each train will have 12 carriages. One station will be located near the Jamarat Bridge in Mina where the stoning ritual takes place. Pilgrims will be able to board the train on the bridge’s fourth floor. The railway project would bring about remarkable improvements in the transportation of pilgrims between the holy sites, traditionally one of the main headaches for Hajj managers.
Haramain Railway Project
Another project, the high-speed Haramain Railway, costing SR37.5 billion will link the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, an entry point for millions of pilgrims to relieve road congestion.
King Abdul Aziz Street Project
Another huge project to ease traffic flow in roads close to the Grand Mosque is the new SR12 billion King Abdul Aziz Street project in Makkah. The project, which covers 1.2 million square meters, is scheduled to complete in 2012. It represents a third of development projects and basic infrastructure schemes in Makkah. The road, which runs from Jeddah to Makkah’s entrance, will make entry and exit to and from the Grand Mosque very easy. The 60-meter-wide road would incorporate the Haramain rail tracks. The Masjid al-Haram is the main attraction for over six million pilgrims who enter Makkah each year and is the focal point for a transformation. The Mosque is built around the Ka’aba shrine, which existed centuries before Islam emerged over 1400 years ago. Muslims around the world turn towards it for daily prayers.
Makkah Clock Tower opening
King Abdullah officially inaugurated the 601-meter the Makkah Royal Clock Tower that houses the world’s tallest golden minaret as well as the largest clock face and man-made crescent. The Tower is topped with a gigantic four-faced clock that rises from behind the hills and helps visitors at other holy sites locate the Grand Mosque. The Makkah clock project is another milestone in King Abdullah’s projects to modernize the holy city.
The loud speakers installed at the top of the Tower will carry the sound of adhan (call to prayer) for seven kilometres from the Haram Mosque. The powerful lights in white and green blinking at the time of adhan can be seen from a distance of 30km.The lights are also helpful for people with hearing difficulties to know prayer times.
The name of Allah has been inscribed on each of the four clock faces. The supreme name of Allah and the Shahada are visible above the clock. Two of the clock faces including the inscription will be 80 meters in height and 65 meters in width, and the dial diameter will be 39 meters. The other two clocks will be 65 meters in height and 43 meters in width while their dial diameter will be 25 meters.
The Makkah Clock Tower when completed will be the tallest in the world – taller than Warsaw Palace of Culture and Science in Poland, London’s Big Ben, Rajabai Clock Tower in Mumbai, India, and the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower in Milwaukee, US.