Three of the world’s oldest mosques, including Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)’s tomb, are set to be destroyed as Saudi Arabia ploughs ahead with plans to expand the kingdom’s second holiest site, it has been reported.
Construction work on the Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah, where the Prophet Mohammed is buried, is due to start next month. Under the proposed plans the site will be developed to include a mosque with a capacity for 1.6m worshippers, The Independent newspaper said.
The redevelopment is due to take place to the west of the existing mosque, which holds the tombs of Islam’s founder as well as his companions Abu Bakr and Umar.
Just outside the western walls of the current compound are mosques dedicated to Abu Bakr, Umar and Masjid Ghamama, built to mark the spot where the Prophet is thought to have given his first prayers for the Eid festival.
Authorities in the Gulf state have not announced any plans to preserve the three mosques, which have existed since the seventh century, The Independent said.
Saudi Arabia is spending billions of dollars developing Makkah in a bid to allow more pilgrims to visit the holy city. More than 10m people travel to the city throughout the year, while around 4m attended this year's hajj pilgrimage.
It will not be the first time authorities have bulldozed historic sites in Makkah and Medina to make way for new developments.
The Gulf state knocked down the Ottoman-era Ajyad Fortress and the hill it stood on to make way for the Jabal Omar complex and has also redeveloped the Prophet’s birthplace and the house of his first wife Khadijah, said the newspaper.
The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 percent of the 1,000-year old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past 20 years.