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Mayor: Masjidil Haram mega expansion project for pilgrims' convenience
MECCA: The on-going expansion of Masjidil Haram’s project will have no effect on the cost of performing the haj, as the whole purpose of the project is for the convenience of the pilgrims, said its Mayor Dr Osama Fadhel Al-Bar.
He said the mega project launched by the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, in November 2011 was meant to provide the pilgrims with a safer, easier and faster means of performing the haj.
He pointed out that the project was part of many projects by the Saudi government as a gift to Muslims all over the world, just like the projects such as the development of the Jamrat (haj ritual of stoning the devil area), train services between Mina, Mudzalifah and Arafat during the haj season, the development in the King Abdulaziz International Airports in Jeddah, and others.
"No pilgrim will be taxed for the expansion project. The cost borne by the pilgrims are for the services provided by the organisations entrusted by the respective government to manage the pilgrimage with the co-operation of the Saudi Ministry of Haj," he told the Malaysian media team when met at his office here, Saturday.
The SR80 billion project, considered as the largest expansion projects throughght the history of Masjidil Haram, was expected to triple its capability to accommodate the pilgrims when completed.
The six-year project is divided into three phases, where construction work can only be carried out for eight months each year, while for the remaining four months, work is halted temporarily to make way for the haj season.
Some local media earlier reported that the total area of the existing Masjidil Haram is 356,000 sq. meters accommodating some 770,000 worshippers while the new expansion covering an area of 456,000 sq. meters will accommodate 1.2 million faithfuls.
Dr Osama said other than the development within the Holy Mosque area to accommodate some 1.6 million pilgrims, the expansion project will also see the development of exterior areas such as rest rooms, tunnels, and other services to facilitate a steady flow of pilgrims.
Meanwhile, commenting on the role of Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) Malaysia, he said the government-linked company is the best example of how a pilgrim fund management board should operate.
He said that at an international symposium about educating the pilgrims a few years ago, when he was the Dean of the Two Custodian of the Holy Mosque Research Facility, he had cited TH as one of the best examples of an organisation to be emulated by the pilgrims fund management board from countries all over the world.
He said when he visited Malaysia in 1996, he was so impressed with the work done in educating the pilgrims, such as courses about tawaf by setting up a mock replica of the Kaabah, classes on how to wear ihram, and others.
Last Wednesday TH CEO Datuk Ismee Ismail was reported as saying that TH's fee for Malaysians performing the Haj pilgrimage this year would be maintained at RM9,980 per pilgrim although costs have risen. - BERNAMA