The making of Makkah

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Makkah is a truly unique city - presenting some unique opportunities.

As the holiest city of Islam, hosting around three million hajjis every year, it should come as no surprise that Makkah is home to some significant projects aimed at moving large numbers of people.

Currently under construction is the King Abdul Aziz Road that will connect the entrance of Makkah to Jebel Omar, next to the Grand Mosque. Following its inauguration in June this year, the road's creation looks likely to create new opportunities for developers.

"We will announce the real estate that will be dealt within each phase. Residents will be given six months to leave their houses," said Umm Al Qura Corporation director general Mohammad Qanawee, which suggests that new housing could be a viable option for new projects for developers.

Other transport projects are also picking up speed. Earlier this year, China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) picked up a US $1.8 billion (SR6.7 billion) ground and civil engineering works contact for a railway linking the port of Jeddah to Makkah and Madinah.

The project is seen as particularly crucial by the Saudi government, with transport minister Jabara Al Seraisry saying; "We consider it a major project in the history of transport in the Kingdom."

The first phase of the Haramain high-speed railway will include preparing the ground, constructing bridges, culverts and tunnels for laying track, while the second phase will include track laying, electrification, power supply, installing communication and signalling systems and deploying rolling stock. The consultancy contract for phase two is currently open for tender.

Meanwhile, the station design contract was awarded to a Foster + Partners/Buro Happold joint venture in April.

CRCC also picked up the honours on a light rail project for Makkah this year. The Makkah Metro will link Makkah with the holy sites at Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah and is due for competion in 2011. The first line is hoped to be open in time for Hajj 2010, where it should carry around 35% of the project's total capacity.

However, it's not just road and rail that is cementing Makkah's reputation on the map. Next year should see the Saudi Binladin Group finish construction on the seven tower Abraj Al Bait development. The seven towers are Hajar, Zamzam, Maqam, Sarah, Marwah, Safa and Hotel Towers. In addition to that the project will have a four-storey mall and car parking. The towers are arranged from 32 to 47 storey with a total built up area of 1.45 million m². Up to 65,000 people would be housed inside the towers.

When complete, the project will be the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Dubai, and the tallest hotel and building in Saudi Arabia.

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