(MENAFN - Arab News) Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques, yesterday inspected the progress of work on the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and said the new facility would accommodate 1.5 million worshippers.
He commended Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for initiating the SR 80 billion project, the largest in the mosque's history, as part of the government's efforts to enhance facilities for the millions of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah.
"A number of new projects have been implemented inside the mosque and in the masaa (the running area between Safa and Marwa mountains), helping pilgrims perform their religious rituals easily," said Al-Sudais, who was appointed chief of the prestigious organization last month.
Yahya Binladin, deputy chairman of the Binladin Group, briefed Al-Sudais on the advanced systems being introduced in the new expansion to ensure the smooth flow of pilgrims, especially during peak seasons.
There are advanced security monitoring and garbage disposal systems in addition to sunshades in courtyards around the mosque. The new extension will be linked to the existing building with bridges. It will be provided with an advanced air-conditioning and lighting system.
Al-Sudais' tour covered the service station, which is being implemented on an area of 75,000 sq. meters. It will have environmentally-friendly air-conditioning systems, water tanks and garbage disposal systems. He commended the efforts of workers and supervisors to complete the project on schedule.
King Abdullah laid the foundation stone for the massive project last August and dedicated it to the Islamic world. Covering an area of 456,000 sq. meters in the northwest and northeast of the mosque, the project includes construction of a new building and expansion and development of courtyards around the mosque.
A 1,200-meter long tunnel will be constructed from the end of the expansion passing through Jabal Hindi while another tunnel 1,100 meters long will be built under Jabal Madafie.
An emergency 700-meter tunnel crossing the other two tunnels will be constructed from Jabal Al-Kaaba.
The government has spent about SR 40 billion on the appropriation of properties for the project. Economist Aabid Al-Abdali of Umm Al-Qura University said the amount would trigger an unprecedented economic boom in the holy city. He estimated Makkah's gross domestic product at SR123 billion.