The first phase of the ongoing expansion of the Mataf (area for circumambulation around the Holy Kaabah) at the Haram Mosque will be completed before the forthcoming Ramadan.
The first phase involves eastern side of the Mataf, parallel to Masa’a (the running area between Safa and Marwa), Okaz Arabic daily reported quoting sources at the company implementing the project. There will be three phases for Mataf expansion.
At present, there are more than 4000 workers engaged in implementing the expansion project. The company has plans to double the number of workers to 8000 so as to complete the first phase within the stipulated period of time. The company will stop the work for nearly four months when the Haram Mosque will witness huge flow of Umrah pilgrims during Ramadan and the Haj season.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Khozaim, deputy head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said that the capacity of the Mataf will increase from 50,000 pilgrims per hour to 130,000 pilgrims when the expansion completed. The expansion works are undergoing in a way not affecting the current Umrah season. The domes of the Ottoman-era hallway on eastern section of the holy mosque have been removed weeks ago to make way for the expansion work. The Mataf expansion is being undertaken as part of the largest ever expansion of the Haram Mosque, ordered by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Preliminary work for the expansion of the Mataf started on November 15 (Muharram 1, 1434) with the installation of huge cranes at the northeastern courtyard of the Haram Mosque. The expansion is being undertaken on the basis of a study prepared by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj and Umrah Studies. The study focuses on using the available space and potential of the mataf to the maximum while maintaining the architectural features of the Grand Mosque using advanced technology. According to the study, the mataf will be separated from prayer areas and it will be linked to different floors of the mosque and facilitate entrance to and exit from the mataf. It will also take care of the crowding at the entrances to the mataf and nearby passages and will also give direct access from the mataf to the Masa’a. The Mataf on the second and third floors will have cable cars to carry aged and disabled pilgrims and there will be direct access to these floors from outside. The topmost floor of the mataf will have automated walkway revolving around the Kaabah.
The study said the original mataf is a circle with a diameter of 95 meters. Muhammad Idris, who prepared the study, said the first Saudi expansion of the facility was undertaken 60 years ago and then roof was not made for prayers. He said factors such as the change in the level of ground water and impact of salt on the foundation and the shaking caused by the rock blasts for the nearby projects are affecting the mosque building’s strength. The study said many efforts have been made to strengthen the pillars of the building. The new project will also take steps to make the building tremor proof.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency, stressed earlier that extensive studies have been undertaken to make sure that the quantity and quality of the water flowing into the well of Zamzam is not affected, in addition to avoiding any errors that could lead to environmental changes in the basin of the Valley of Ibrahim, as well as the surrounding area and near the well of Zamzam. Al-Sudais said during his inspection tour of the project that the measures taken by the Presidency toward the well of Zamzam coincide with the growing demand for water consumption of Zamzam. This goes hand in hand with the completion of the expansion project of the Grand Mosque and its surrounding squares. Al-Sudais also pointed out that the pumping tests and studies of the Zamzam water which were conducted before and after the implementation of the expansion project — under the follow-up and monitoring of the geological survey in coordination with the presidency — has a profound effect in reinforcing that there is no environmental impact in terms of water quality or flow rate at the cross section of valley with the expansion project. Al-Sudais requested the contractor of the project to double efforts to ensure the speedy completion of the work on the first phase of the expansion before the advent of the holy month of Ramadan in early July.