CAIRO – Crowning long efforts over the past years, officials in Al-Haram mosque in Makkah have removed the temporary mataf bridge, providing more space for worshippers to perform prayers near the Kaaba.
“A total of 10,489 pieces of the mataf and connecting bridges were removed within 35 days,” Wael Al-Halabi, a member of the technical committee for projects of the Two Holy Mosques, was quoted as saying by local media, Arab News reported.
More than 580 individuals from the group participated in the removal of the bridge in addition to 80 engineers from the technical committee, he added.
Al-Halabi added that work hours exceeded 200,000 with no registered injuries, “thanks to God and those committed to implementing safety requirements and professional health.
He added that the removal of the temporary bridge was performed according to a scheduled plan by the Binladin Group over eight stages.
“It was also amended according to the workflow in order to provide the utmost comfort and more space for the visitors to the Grand Mosque.”
The temporary mataf [the circumambulation areas around the Kaaba, the heart of Al Masjid Al Haram] was constructed years ago to accommodate worshippers during expansion works in the Haram.
Saudi authorities are spending more than $20bn upgrading and expanding Islam’s holiest site to accommodate more pilgrims.
Approved by King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz in 2011, the latest expansion would cover an area of 400,000 sq. meters to accommodate 1.2 million worshippers.
The total area of the existing Haram Mosque is 356,000 sq. meters accommodating 770,000 worshippers.
The old Mataf has also been expanded to accommodate up to 107,000 tawaf performers per hour.
The ongoing work is the largest ever expansion in the history of the Grand Mosque.
Starting from 2016, 1.25 million pilgrims are expected to arrive every month compared to 400,000 in each month during 2015.
According to hajj ministry, five million Umrah visas were issued in 2013 and six million each during 2014 and 2015.
It is expecting 10 million visas to be issued in 2016 and 60 million by 2018.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur’an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.