- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Mecca construction work to enlarge Grand Mosque
- Date: 25th October 2012
- Summary: MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA (OCTOBER 23, 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS WALKING TO GRAND MOSQUE VARIOUS OF NEW MINARETS NEXT TO CRANES VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS WALKING NEAR EXPANSION CONSTRUCTION SITE CLOSE OF MINARET AND CRANES VARIOUS OF CONSTRUCTION SITE VARIOUS OF CRANES AND TOWER BUILDINGS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MOROCCAN PILGRIM, ABDUL KAREEM SALFOS, SAYING: "The expansion this year is big - I don't think there has been an expansion like this in the past - there have been expansions, but I don't think - and God only knows - there hasn't been an expansion like this before." PILGRIMS WALKING BY EXPANSION SITE AND MECCA CLOCK CLOCK TOWER MINARET SURROUNDED BY CRANES PILGRIMS WALKING TO GRAND MOSQUE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) EGYPTIAN PILGRIM, SIHAM AMJADI, SAYING: "May the new expansion, God willing, make room for one billion Muslims in this holy house." CRANES IN FRONT OF MINARETS ON EXPANSION SITE VARIOUS OF CONSTRUCTION SITE WITH CRANES AND BUILDING MATERIALS MAYOR OF MECCA, OSAMA AL-BAR, IN HIS OFFICE AL-BAR SPEAKING TO REPORTER (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MAYOR OF MECCA, OSAMA FADL AL-BAR, SAYING: "The new expansion, God willing, after its completion includes approximately one million and two thousand pilgrims and if we add the numbers and capacity of the old mosque - approximately six hundred thousand pilgrims - we are talking about a capacity of two million pilgrims on completion of the expansion." VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS AT GRAND MOSQUE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MAYOR OF MECCA, OSAMA FADL AL-BAR, SAYING: "We are talking about the project of expanding the Grand Mosque which will cost approximately 80 billion riyals; and the public transport project which will begin now - this will cost 62 billion riyals and there is also King Abdullah's reconstruction of Mecca project - 23 billion riyals in addition to a number of other projects, so we are talking about spending 200 billion riyals." REPORTER TAKING NOTES REPORTER SEATED WITH MECCA MAYRO AL-BAR VARIOUS EXTERIORS OF MECCA MUNICIPALITY BUILDING
- Embargoed: 9th November 2012 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Business,Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA7R691WNXZQ8OF9ZUTPH6P4QC7
- Story Text: Saudi Arabia's massive spending does not only cover welfare and economic infrastructure, the conservative kingdom is spending more than 200 billion Riyals on ambitious projects to expand and facilitate traffic in Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and the Grand Mosque is about to get much grander.
Spending on Mecca's infrastructure, where the annual Haj pilgrimage is performed by as many as 3 million people, is non-stop.
For Moroccan pilgrim Abdul Kareem Salfos, the expansion of the Grand Mosque currently taking place is unprecedented.
"The expansion this year is big - I don't think there has been an expansion like this in the past - there have been expansions, but I don't think - and God only knows - there hasn't been an expansion like this before," he told Reuters Television.
Siham Amjadi, an Egyptian pilgrim, hopes the expansion will make room for millions more Muslim worshipers.
"May the new expansion, God willing, make room for one billion Muslims in this holy house," she said.
The mayor of Mecca, Osama Fadl al-Bar, said that the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Haj is the 'biggest annual mega event in the world'. Last year nearly 3 million pilgrims performed the Haj, with roughly a third from inside Saudi Arabia.
The new expansion of the Grand Mosque aims to more than double its capacity for pilgrims during Haj.
"The new expansion, God willing, after it's completion includes approximately one million, two thousand pilgrims and if we add the numbers and capacity of the old mosque - approximately six hundred thousand pilgrims - we are talking about a capacity of two million pilgrims on completion of the expansion," said al-Bar.
Even before the actual expansion began, the project cost the government 30 billion Riyals in compensation to property owners of the necessary land.
Since Islam's early days, the Grand Mosque has gone through numerous expansions that have often required the demolition of sometimes historically significant buildings.
Pictures of Mecca in the late 19th century show Safa and Marwa -- the two points where Prophet Abrahm's wife Hagar is said to have walked between several times in search of water, now part of the haj rituals -- covered in buildings. This path is now clear and part of the mosque.
According to al-Bar, the cost of expanding the Grand Mosque will reach an approximate 80 billion Riyals. In addition to this, a public transport project due to begin imminently will be costing 62 billion Riyals. King Abdullah's reconstruction of Mecca project along with a few other projects are also in the works.
"We are talking about spending 200 billion riyals," says al-Bar.
Many of the tens of billions being spent on infrastructure are intended to improve safety. The last deadly stampede in Mecca was in 2006, when 360 people were crushed to death.
Maintaining security and preventing the spread of endemics are another two key issues for authorities.
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