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Tue 5 Jun 2012 11:56 AM

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Grand Mosque will hold 1.5m pilgrims after expansion

Official says Saudi holy site will be significantly larger after US$21.44bn upgrade

Grand Mosque will hold 1.5m pilgrims after expansion
Islamic tourism is a huge earner for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom (AFP/Getty Images).

Saudi Arabia says its ongoing SAR80bn (US$21.33bn) expansion of Makkah's Grand Mosque will eventually allow the Islamic holy site to accommodate 1.5m worshippers, it was reported.

Saudi ruler King Abdullah approved the
upgrade, the largest in the mosque’s history, as part of the government's bid to improve facilities for the millions of pilgrims who perform Hajj
and Umrah pilgrimages each year.

 “A number of new projects
have been implemented inside the mosque and in the masaa (the running area
between Safa and Marwa mountains), helping pilgrims perform their religious
rituals easily,” Dr Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, was quoted as saying by Arab News.

Some of the upgrades to the site include new security monitoring, garbage disposal systems, air conditioning and sunshades in
courtyards around the mosque.

The kingdom’s
government has spent around SAR40bn on acquiring properties where the expansion will take place, reported the

Islamic tourism is a huge earner for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom. According to a report by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, domestic tourism alone in the country increased 13.5 percent last year, generating US$22bn.

Tourism accounts for about 3.1 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product and for about 7.2 percent in the kingdom's non-oil sector.

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