The new mataf bridge around the Holy Kaaba opens for pilgrims this week. Only disabled and elderly pilgrims will be allowed to use the circular bridge that can hold 7,000 wheelchair-borne pilgrims per hour.
“Since the bridge would be set apart for weak, infirm and disabled pilgrims, the movement of able-bodied pilgrims below on the ground floor will become easier as that area will be free from wheelchairs that used to clutter in an already crowded area,” said the Haj Ministry’s spokesman Hatim Qadi.
Authorities have stepped up preparations to receive millions of pilgrims in the second half of Ramadan as they come from across the world to perform Umrah and attend special prayers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
The Central Haj Committee, chaired by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, reviewed the arrangements made to ensure the security and comfort of pilgrims. The governor urged public and private agencies to extend the best possible services to the guests of God.
About 5 million pilgrims from within and outside the Kingdom are expected to perform Umrah during Ramadan. According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), an Umrah in Ramadan is equal to Haj in reward.
Nearly 5 million foreign pilgrims have so far arrived in the Kingdom this year to perform Umrah, the committee said, adding that 400,000 of them still remain in Makkah and Madinah.
“We have made arrangements for the transport of 15 million pilgrims in big buses from parking lots outside Makkah to the Grand Mosque and back,” a senior official said. Contracts have been signed with five transport companies to deploy 1,600 buses for service.
Nearly 35,000 security officers, including special forces, have been deployed in and around the Grand Mosque to maintain law and order and ensure pilgrims’ safety. About 4,000 television cameras have been installed in different parts of Makkah to monitor movement of pilgrims. “These cameras send us live pictures of what is happening in and around Makkah,” said Capt. Haithem Al-Matrafi, head of the civil defense’s operations room, which informs field officers about traffic accidents and congestions to take immediate action.
Meanwhile, the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques has called on Saudis and expatriates to postpone their Umrah because of ongoing expansion works at the Grand Mosque.