By Courtney Trenwith
First phase of the historic expansion opens in time to accommodate worshippers this Ramadan
The first phase of the historic expansion of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mosque in Makkah has opened in time to accommodate 400,000 more worshippers this Ramadan, according to Arab News.
Three floors of a newly constructed annex have been completed, as well as the northern, southern and western plazas of the mosque.
The Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, is undergoing its largest ever expansion, worth $21.3bn, to increase its capacity to 2 million pilgrims.
Deputy chief of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs, Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Khozaim, said the annex and plazas could cater to more than 1.5m worshippers during the peak Hajj and Umrah seasons.
The annex had been decorated with chandeliers and air-conditioning and water fountains had been installed for visitors.
The entire expansion is expected to take several years.
During construction, authorities have cut the number of Umrah visas issued to foreign pilgrims and limited their duration to 14 days, which the Saudi Arabian tourism industry claims will lead to a SR5bn ($1.3bn) loss in revenue this Ramadan.