Mina, 4th February 2004
A nine-storey Jamarat Bridge is to be constructed in order to prevent stampedes when Hajj pilgrims gather to stone the three pillars in a ritual signifying the rejection of evil.
Dr Mohammed Idris, Director of the Engineering Research Department at the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj Research, told Okaz, a sister publication of the Saudi Gazette, that the new bridge is to be constructed to replace the current two-tier bridge. The new bridge will be constructed in two stages: five stories in the first stage, and four in the second.
He made the announcement a day after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz issued directives for a project to develop the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah and the holy sites in order to meet the needs of pilgrims for the forthcoming 20 years.
The 20-year development project is to be overseen by a Commission chaired by Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Prince Miteb Bin Abdul Aziz. Governor of Makkah Region Prince Abdul-Majeed Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Madinah Region Prince Meqrin Bin Abdul Aziz and Minister of Hajj Iyad Madani will be members of the Commission, which will advocate proposals and enlist local and foreign expertise for the project.
When completed, the first five floors of Jamarat Bridge will accommodate up to three million pilgrims a day. When the nine floors are completed, nine million pilgrims a day will be accommodated. Pilgrims will mount the bridge on ramps and stairs, and there will be escalators and elevators for the handicapped.
Idris said that the ground floor, ramps and tunnels will be constructed within a year and the project will be operative within two years. Pilgrims will be able to approach the stoning area from different sides of the bridge using pathways allotted according to group plans for pilgrim movement.
According to the Hajj Research Institute’s statistics, 20% of pilgrims delegate others to carry out the stoning ritual on their behalf. The number of pilgrims able to carry out the stoning themselves is currently 20% higher than the nominal capacity of the Jamarat area.
Speaking on the Royal Decree to re-structure the Jamarat area, Dr Habib Zain Al-Abedeen, Deputy Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, told Okaz that a fund will be allotted for the project. He did not provide a specific timeframe, but said that the fund, transportation facilities at the holy sites, and development of the Jamarat area, are the top priorities of the Makkah Development Commission. He said that the fund will function as a bank to finance the developments. The Commission’s priority is to build the new bridge and develop a transport system that will eliminate the current traffic jams at the holy sites and in the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madina, he said.
In response to the King’s decree, Dr Sami Barhamin, Secretary General of the Higher Commission for the Development of Makkah, told Okaz that the role of the new Commission for the Development of Makkah and the Holy Sites will not conflict with that of his commission. He added that all research work carried out by his commission will be available to the newly established commission. Barhamin said that the two commissions should focus on infrastructure, restructuring of administrative systems, and transportation systems at the holy sites.
Several huge projects are already underway to improve the Holy City of Makkah. The Makkah Development Plan, to be completed over several years, will enable the area to accommodate over half a million more people than it is able to currently. The plan also envisages a huge increase in car-parking capacity from today’s 585 vehicles to 45,000, and an expansion in the pedestrian area from 6,000 square-metres to 120,000.
Traditional souks around the Grand Mosque are today scattered over an area of 180,000 square-metres. Ultra-modern malls and markets are projected to cover 660,000 square-metres. At present, the area around the ring of the Grand Mosque is occupied by a dense concentration of high-rise hotels and residential buildings, most of which were constructed decades ago. The plan envisages 40 side-roads leading to the Mosque, in addition to pedestrian tunnels under main streets to facilitate the movement of worshippers. There are no gardens around the Mosque at present, but over 30,000 square-metres of parks are to be created and thousands of trees planted therein.
One of the major projects underway in the Holy City is the SR6 billion Omar Mountain development, which overlooks the Grand Mosque. Several hundred buildings are to be cleared and replaced by 120 residential towers, each 20 floors high, with total capacity for 100,000 people. The Omar Mountain has an area of 160,000 square-metres, and is named after the second Caliph in Islam, Omar Bin Al-Khattab. Another major project underway will construct a multi-tower residential and shopping centre on the site of the old Ajyad Hospital, located in close proximity to the Grand Mosque. A modern hospital will also be constructed as part of the centre.