The sources said that the Makkah Development Authority, the Makkah Municipality and the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques’ Affairs are currently conducting intensive studies concerning the expansion project to be completed by 2020.
The Makkah Development Authority has approved the master plan for the development of the city’s central region. The plan aims at accommodating three million residents and eight million pilgrims. The Saudi Binladin Group has begun work on the expansion of the running area (masaa) between Safa and Marwa. The project aims at reducing overcrowding and will be completed before the next Haj season. Plans are under way to air-condition the entire built-up area of the mosque.
The Saudi government has spent more than SR70 billion on the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques in recent years. Each mosque can now hold more than a million worshippers at a time.
As part of efforts to develop Makkah’s central region, in 2005 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah launched six major projects, including the SR12 billion Jabal Omar Residential Towers . Spread over 230,000 square meters, the Jabal Omar project includes five-star hotels, commercial centers and prayer facilities.
According to Habib Zain Al-Abidine, undersecretary at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, some 25 new real estate projects are being carried out in the center of Makkah. The total cost will exceed SR100 billion.
Sami Barhameen, secretary-general of the Makkah Development Authority, said the development projects to be implemented around the Grand Mosque were designed to enable worshippers to follow the imam at the Grand Mosque during prayers. The projects will not affect the underground flow of Zamzam water.
Faek Ibrahim, a trader in Makkah, welcomed the government’s move to expand the central area. “This project will benefit everybody,” he told Arab News. Ibrahim has been doing business in the Muddai area located close to the Haram for several years.
He and many other Saudi traders were asked to vacate the area at the time of the last expansion project 15 years ago. “All traders who vacated the area were given substantial amounts in compensation,” he said. The expansion created more housing and prayer areas for pilgrims and worshippers.
Muhammad Alauddin, a resident of the Shamiya neighborhood, believes that the new projects in the central area will change the face of Makkah, removing disorganized neighborhoods and dilapidated buildings. However, he complained that expatriate workers have benefited most froom the expansion work. “As a result, many Saudi traders in the area have lost their businesses,” he pointed out. This has happened not only in Shamiya but also in other areas such as Harrat Al-Bab, Al-Hijrah, Shabaka and Gaza . Architect Mohammed Bazaid expressed his satisfaction over the continuous development of the central region. He said the new projects would transform Makkah into a world-class city. He also complained that non-Saudi workers have occupied most shops in areas surrounding the mosque.