With the Islamic month of Ramadaan not far away, there has been concerns that the numerous construction projects being undertaken in the holy city of Makkah might constrict the number of pilgrims that can be accommodated in the haram.
On a recent trip to Makkah for Umrah, it’s clearly evident that due to the construction, there is a more confined space for pilgrims and that tawaafs (circumambulations of the Holy Ka’aba) take much longer to complete.
Wooden planks have been installed around the mataf (place of circumambulation area around the Holy Ka’aba). The area surrounding the isolated space has been expanded to ensure the safety of pilgrims against any objects falling from the upper floor.
The skyline of Makkah is also dominated by a plethora of cranes that work furiously throughout the night to complete the latest expansion project of the haram. The company executing the project has doubled the number of cranes to seven and installed giant cranes 100 meters in length at the eastern masaa in order for the equipment to reach the higher floors of the masaa (the path between the hillocks of Safa and Marwah).
To alleviate concerns Saudi authorities have assured pilgrims the first phase of the expansion of mataf will be ready before Ramadan when millions of pilgrims come for Umrah intending to spend Ramadaan in Makkah.
Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Khozaim, vice president of the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques said, “The ground floor and first floor of mataf will be opened for pilgrims during Ramadan. Pilgrims will circumambulate on the terrace of the Grand Mosque during this Hajj season.”
Abdul Mohsen Al-Hamid, director of projects and studies at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques told Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper the pace of work has been accelerated to complete construction before Ramadaan. The number of workers to expand mataf will be increased to about 8,000. The project began with 4,000 workers.
He said this was necessary to accomplish the eastern part of the project on time and according to schedule. Engineers and technicians are working around the clock to finish the eastern part of the mataf despite its being crowded with pilgrims. One of the workers on the project said, “The mataf area has also been strengthened so the floor will tolerate the weight of additional pilgrims.”
The first phase of the project will be completed 15 days before the holy month of Ramadaan allowing 105,000 Muslims to perform tawaf in one hour.
Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News – 2013-04-11