It’s not just the population of Saudi Arabia that’s growing. Arab News reports that a growing desire for pilgrims to visit the Grand Mosque and take part in ritual circumambulation is creating new needs for infrastructure at the mosque. The latest thoughts go to creating more space on the upper level (‘second floor’ for Americans; ‘first floor’ for others). There’s need, too, to provide better access for handicapped pilgrims who are now permitted into the mataf area only during certain times to prevent overcrowding and congestion. An expanded upper deck might provide a solution.

The article also addresses a problem that’s developed recently: People’s ‘reserving’ spaces in the area closest to the Kaaba. Around the Kaaba, of all places on earth, equality is most emphasized. That means that spaces are pretty much allotted by fate. Using financial assets to insert oneself in a prime location at the expense of others is just not done. But some attempt it and, according to the Meccan Governor, will be stopped.

Study proposes expansion of first floor mataf

JEDDAH: A comprehensive study has been prepared for the expansion of the mataf (the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) to reduce congestion.

Col. Yahya Al-Zahrani, commander of the security force at the Grand Mosque in Makkah told Al-Watan Arabic daily that the mataf expansion would be carried out on the first floor of the Grand Mosque and its terrace in order to reduce crowding on the ground floor.

“We don’t know exactly how many worshippers can be accommodated on the ground floor of the mataf,” he said.

He pointed out that measures would be taken to avoid crowding in the area by stopping those not wearing ihram from entering the area.

Speaking on the issue of worshippers reserving space inside the Grand Mosque for prayer, especially in the front rows, Al-Zahrani said Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal had set up a committee to end this negative phenomenon and punish those practicing it. Reserving place inside the mosque for taraweeh and qiyamullail prayers has become a common practice for the past several years.

Saudi Gazette reports on a new public transportation system now being implemented in Mecca. It is intended to reduce traffic congestion caused by the influx of pilgrim in the city itself.

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