MAKKAH: Preliminary work for the expansion of the mataf (the circumambulation area around the Kaaba) started yesterday with the installation of huge cranes at the northeastern courtyard of the Grand Mosque. The contractor undertaking the expansion has sought the evacuation of preachers’ offices in the mataf and the command office of the Haram Security forces close to Al-Safa Gate.
The expansion is being undertaken on the basis of a study prepared by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj and Umrah Studies.
The study focuses on using the available space and potential of the mataf to the maximum while maintaining the architectural features of the Grand Mosque using advanced technology.
According to the study, the mataf will be separated from prayer areas and it will be linked to different floors of the mosque and facilitate entrance to and exit from the mataf. It will also takes care of the crowding at the entrances to the mataf and nearby passages and will also give direct access from the mataf to the masaa.
The mataf on the second and third floors will have cable cars to carry aged and disabled pilgrims and there will be direct access to these floors from outside. The topmost floor of the mataf will have automated walkway revolving around the Kaaba.
The study said the original mataf is a circle with a diameter of 95 meters.
Currently the capacity of the mataf is 28,000 pilgrims in an hour or four persons in a square meter area, though at peak days it rises to 40,000 people or six people in a square meter in an hour.
Muhammad Idris, who prepared the study, said the first Saudi expansion of the facility was undertaken 60 years ago and then roof was not made for prayers.
He said factors such as the change in the level of ground water and impact of salt on the foundation and the shaking caused by the rock blasts for the nearby projects are affecting the mosque building’s strength.
The study said many efforts have been made to strengthen the pillars of the building. The new project will also take steps to make the building tremor proof.
Authorities have made it clear that the new works will not affect the upcoming Umrah season.