Prince Khalid al-Faisal says studies on Makkah, holy sites to merge into King Abdullah project

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures lays out plan of action

Saudi Arabia allocates $133 million for projects to expand tunnels in holy sites

GCC parliament session concluded in Jeddah

Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Defense, received Japanese Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Shigeru Ando who congratulated him on the royal trust in his appointment as Defense Minister.

During the meeting, they exchanged cordial talks and issues of common interest between the two friendly countries.

The meeting was attended by Director General of the Office of Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman bin Saleh Al-Bunyan.

Prince Salman also received the Secretary General of World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Dr. Saleh bin Suleiman Al-Wahaibi and members of the Assembly's Board of Trustees, who came to greet and congratulate him on the royal trust in his appointment as Defense Minister.

Prince Salman expressed his thanks to them for their noble feelings, wishing them all success.

During the meeting, Prince Salman was also briefed on the Assembly's great services to Muslims all over the world. The meeting was attended by Lieutenant General Bunyan.

Prince Salman also received the Director of Public Security, General Saeed Al-Qahtani and commanders of public security who came to greet and congratulate him on the royal trust in his appointment as Defense Minister.

The Prince expressed his thanks to for their noble feelings, also praising the personnel of public security for their great efforts in maintaining the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and providing, along with other military sectors, great services during Hajj and Umrah seasons. The meeting was attended by Lieutenant General Bunyan.

Meanwhile, the Board of Directors of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures held a meeting this week.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Acting Secretary General of the Center Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar said that the meeting was held to discuss the Center's strategy, program of action and dates of upcoming meetings in addition to determining the Center's priorities.

The meeting also discussed a number of issues pertaining to means of enhancing dialogue culture, encouraging mutual respect and cooperation and supporting justice and peace among the peoples.

The meeting came after signing the agreement establishing the Center in Vienna on 13/10/2010 in the presence of the foreign ministers of the founding states (Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain).

On the other hand, Prince Abdulaziz bin Majed bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Madinah region and Chairman of Hajj Committee in Madinah patronized a closing ceremony of Hajj season for the year 1432AH.

In his speech, the Secretary of Hajj Committee in Madinah Mohammed bin Mustafa Al-Numan commended the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince for the provision of the best services to pilgrims and its care and attention to the Holy Sites and their development, noting that Madinah received more than 1,650,000 pilgrims during this year's Hajj season.

King Abdullah had launched the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque in history, which will increase the mosque's capacity to more than 2.5 million worshippers and cost SR80 billion.

Before laying the foundation for the new expansion, King Abdullah inspected models of the expansion project as well as other development projects implemented in Makkah and other holy sites.

King Abdullah dedicated the new expansion to the Islamic world.

Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf announced the new expansion project would cost SR80 billion, which would include the money required to pay compensation to owners of real estates appropriated for the project.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal commended King Abdullah’s endeavors to develop the two holy mosques and said Muslims all over the Islamic world appreciate these efforts and holds the king in high esteem.

Saleh Al-Hosain, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, praised experts at Saudi universities for preparing the best, environment-friendly designs for the expansion while incorporating high safety standards.

“As King Abdullah wished, the whole Islamic world would be proud of the new expansion project,” Al-Hosain said.

A documentary screened during the ceremony said the expansion’s main gate would be named after King Abdullah and will have two minarets, bringing the mosque’s total number of minarets to 11.

The new project, covering 400,000 sq. meters in the northwest and northeast of the mosque, is the project of the century, said Muhammad Al-Khozaim, vice president of the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques Affairs.

Al-Khozaim disclosed plans to expand the mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Holy Kaaba) and provide air-conditioning for all parts of the Grand Mosque, adding that the two schemes would be carried out shortly along with the new Haram expansion project.

Abdul Mohsen Bin Humaid, director of projects, said the new project would be completed in a year and a half.

According to informed sources, the total area of the existing Haram Mosque is 356,000 sq. meters accommodating 770,000 worshippers while the new expansion covering an area of 456,000 sq. meters will accommodate 1.2 million faithful.

The new project will comprise three parts: construction of a new building; expansion and development of courtyards around the mosque, including walkways, tunnels and toilets; and development of service facilities for air-conditioning, electricity and drinking water.

A 1,200-meter tunnel will be constructed from the end of the expansion passing through Jabal Hindi while another tunnel with a length of 1,100 meters will be built under Jabal Madafie.

An emergency 700-meter tunnel crossing the other two tunnels will be constructed from Jabal Al-Kaaba.

King Abdullah also inaugurated the Makkah Tower Clock, considered the largest in the world; the Makkah Time, the newly expanded masa'a (the running course between Safa and Marwa); the King Abdulaziz endowment towers; the Jamrat Bridge complex in Mina; and the Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa as well as the sunshades around the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah by pressing buttons.

Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar said the new projects launched by King Abdullah would boost business in Makkah and help the holy city attract new investments worth SR100 billion.

"Every SR1 billion spent by the government would encourage the private sector to invest an additional SR5 billion. This way the public investment would have a multiple effect on the economy," the mayor said.

Nawaf Al-Jowharji, a member of Makkah Provincial Council, described the King Abdulaziz endowment towers as one of the largest real estate projects in the Kingdom, adding that it would help accommodate about 50,000 pilgrims and visitors.

Economist Aabid Al-Abdali of Umm Al-Qura University said the spending of SR40 billion, which is given to owners of real estate properties appropriated for the expansion project, would trigger an unprecedented economic boom in the holy city.

He estimated Makkah's gross domestic product at SR123 billion. "The volume of spending on Makkah projects equals one third of the whole economy," he pointed out. He said the multiple effect of government spending in new projects would generate SR133 billion.

Maher Jamal, a member of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke about the increasing flow of investment to Makkah, especially from Saudis. He estimated total investments in the ongoing development projects in Makkah at SR100 billion.

Yousuf Al-Ahmadi, director of Afkar Development Company, underscored King Abdullah’s efforts for the development of the two holy mosques and welfare of pilgrims. “Development of the two holy mosques is the king’s main agenda,” he told Arab News.

Under the chairmanship of Speaker of Majlis Al-Shoura of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh, the 5th Periodic Meeting of the GCC Parliament Speakers was concluded this week.

The conferees thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for hosting in Riyadh the signing ceremony of the GCC initiative to resolve the Yemeni crisis, appreciating the efforts exerted by the GCC Foreign Ministers to achieve this historic accomplishment.

They also offer condolences to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on the death of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz.

They also congratulated Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on being selected and appointed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the posts of Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The conferees also praised the historic decision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to allow woman to participate as a member in Majlis Al-Shoura and as voter in municipal councils.

They also denounced the Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, emphasizing solidarity and full support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

They also condemned the continued blatant Iranian interference in the internal affairs of the GCC member states.

The GCC Parliament Speakers reviewed the agenda of the meeting and issued a number of decisions pertaining to the GCC joint action in various parliamentary fields.