(MENAFN - Arab News) Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques, said the capacity of the Grand Mosque has been increased to accommodate an additional 200,000 people.
The ground floor of the King Abdullah Expansion Project for worship was opened, increasing the mosque's capacity.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has issued directives to make partial use of the project from last Friday, the first day of Ramadan.
Al-Sudais said Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the holy mosque would be able to use the expansion project for the first time this Ramadan. "As part of the ongoing largest ever expansion of the holy mosque, 12,500 new toilets will be constructed," he added.
Speaking to Al-Madinah newspaper, Al-Sudais said construction work on the terraces, bridges and other facilities at the project are nearing completion. Highly advanced mechanical and electrical systems are being used for the project. The new courtyards have been prepared to accommodate the huge number of Umrah pilgrims and visitors during the holy month, he said, adding smoking, selling of goods and begging are prohibited in the courtyards.
Air-conditioning for a part of the mosque's basement has also been completed, Al-Sudais said.
The presidency chief said the project for setting up 250 sprinkler fans as well as laying heat resistant marble on the mosque's courtyard has been implemented. A total 8,000 employees and workers were involved in implementing the presidency's Ramadan plan. They include presidency officials, guides, as well as workers for cleaning, maintenance and operations.
Arrangements have also been made to deliver Islamic guidance classes for pilgrims in addition to answering their questions.
Prominent Islamic scholars, including members of the Senior Scholars' Commission, are leading classes at the mosque.
Regarding his future as imam and khateeb of the holy mosque after being appointed head of the presidency, Al-Sudais said leading prayers at the Grand Mosque was a great honor and responsibility unlike any other.
"Both posts are big missions that entail great responsibilities and hard work.
"I am exerting all efforts to accomplish these missions as best as I can with the grace of the Almighty Allah."
He added the public would not allow him to relinquish the post of imam.