Agencies | 08 Dhul Qa’dah 1436/24 August 2015

Putting final touches on preparations to receive millions of pilgrims from around the world, the officials in the Grand Mosque in Makkah have revealed that the fourth floor or mataf, or circumambulation area around the Kaaba, will be ready before hajj next September.

“We have increased the capacity of the mataf in the Grand Mosque,” Sultan Al-Qurashi, projects manager at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, told Al Arabiya on Sunday, 23 August.

“It was the third phase of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Expansion Project. Pilgrims this hajj season will have four floors to circumambulate the Kaaba,” Al-Qurashi added.

According to the Saudi official, the Grand Mosque in Makkah will have four floors of mataf by early September.

Currently, the construction of the third floor has been completed, with a total area of 76,000 sq. Meters.

He added that the construction is going on for the ceiling.

With the new expansions, the Grand Mosque has the capacity to accommodate around 114,000 pilgrims an hour.

“All construction work in the Grand Mosque will stop on Sept. 9 to allow pilgrims to enter the Grand Mosque and perform the rituals comfortably. Work will resume on Oct. 14 to construct the three main gates,” said Al-Qurashi.

“We also have ramps for pilgrims with disabilities to facilitate the movement of wheelchairs,” he said.

Over the past few years, the Saudi government has championed several projects to develop and expand Makkah to help more pilgrims perform Hajj and Umrah with ease.

In November 2009, Riyadh completed a five-story hi-tech Jamarat Bridge to ensure a smooth flow of millions of pilgrims during the pelting ritual of the annual hajj.

The bridge has 10 entrances and 12 exits over its four levels to allow the flow of 300,000 pilgrims per hour. It is also equipped with technology to help authorities intervene in case of any deadly stampedes during the stoning ritual.

Other projects were also constructed to expand the area of `Arafat, and develop the sewage and fire-fighting systems, in addition to upgrading health and transportation services.

As part of the new extensions provided at Islam’s holiest shrine, hundreds of sunshades were also installed in the mosque’s courtyards; home to the Ka’bah, which marks the direction Muslims take during prayers.