The Third Haramain Expansion is Saudi Arabia’s latest attempt to extend the Masjid-e-Haram beyond its current domain. Through the years, the increased traffic of the pilgrims to the holy sites in the Hejaz demanded a developmental expedition which could increase the capacity and facilities at the Sacred Mosque. After years of planning and building, many projects developing around the Masjid-e-Haram are nearing fruition, and some are already serving the Umrah and Hajj pilgrims.
The first and foremost is the Haramain High-Speed Rail network, which connects Medina and Mecca. The rail was built for a total cost of 9.3 billion dollars and currently has five stations along the way. The train travels at 300 kilometres per hour, and pilgrims can commute between the two cities in about two hours.
The expansion of the Holy Mosque aims to accommodate approximately 1.6 million more pilgrims, especially in the times of the Hajj season. The ambitious project involves the construction of squares, service buildings, tunnels and a ring road to mitigate the stifling traffic in the times of the Ramadan Umrah and Hajj season. The Masjid-e-Haram, upon completion of the projects, would have seventy-eight new gates on the ground floor. The Grand Mosque will also have six new levels for praying and performing the Tawaf. The construction companies have also ordered 680 escalators and toilet fixtures for 21,000 bathroom and points of ablution.
People with special needs have also not been left out. The Saudi government plans to install 24 elevators exclusively for the disabled so that they could get to the many floors of the Mosque with ease.
The Saudi BinLadin Group has spearheaded this project, and up till now the investment on the construction has cost 26.6 billion dollars. The government has already paid 35.5 billion dollars to acquire the land around the Baitullah. Many buildings would be dismantled to make way for the expansion projects.
Isolux Corsan, a Spanish construction company, is in the process of completing a metro system under and around the city of Mecca. Two more lines will be incorporated into the existing metro system, making the journey from the hotel and the mosque easier. This way pilgrim residing in cheaper hotels farther from the Grand Mosque can quickly get to the Kaba’ah for worship.
The Jeddah International Airport has also not been left out of the project. A new terminal has already been built with a cost of 7.2 billion dollars. This way the pilgrims to Mecca would be dealt with exclusively at the airport and their immigration procedures would run through much more smoothly.
All these projects are set to be complete around the year 2020, although they have faced a few setbacks and delays over the years. The falling price of petroleum in the global market is also a reason for the slow pace of the construction project. Either way, the pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia in the future, who intend to pray at the Kaba’ah and set their eyes on the green dome of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), would find great ease and comfort due to the systems being developed by the government today.