Masjid al-Haram – Mecca – SAUDI ARABIA
Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām (“The Sacred Mosque”) is the largest mosque in the world. Located in the city of Mecca (Makkah), it surrounds the Kaaba, the place which Muslims worldwide turn towards while performing daily prayers and is Islam’s holiest place. The mosque is also known as the Grand Mosque.
The current structure covers an area of 356,800 square metres (88.2 acres) including the outdoor and indoor praying spaces and can accommodate up to four million Muslim worshipers during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world.
The most significant architectural and structural changes came, and continue to come, from the Saudi status of Guardian of the Holy Places and the honorific title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (the other being the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina) been afforded to King Abdul Aziz. Many of the previously mentioned features, particularly the support columns, were destroyed in spite of their historical value. In their place came artificial stone and marble, the ceiling was refurnished and the floor was replaced. The Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, an important part of both Hajj and Umrah, came to be included in the Mosque itself during this time via roofing and enclosement. Also during this first Saudi renovation four minarets were added.
The second Saudi renovations, this time under King Fahd, added a new wing and an outdoor prayer area to the Mosque. The new wing which is also for prayers is accessed through the King Fahd Gate. This extension is considered to have been from 1982-1988.
The third Saudi extension (1988–2005) saw the building of more minarets, the erecting of a King’s residence overlooking the Mosque and more prayer area in and around the mosque itself. These developments have taken place simultaneously with those in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. This third extension has also resulted in 18 more gates being built, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns. Other modern developments include the addition of heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage system.
After the death of King Fahd, the Mosque is went under a fourth extension which began in 2007 and is projected to last until 2020. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz plans to increase the capacity of the mosque by 35% from its current maximum capacity of 800,000 with 1,120,000 outside the Mosque. Right next to the mosque is the Abraj Al Bait Towers which were completed in 2011 and stand as the largest, and second tallest building in the world.
Northern expansion of the mosque began in August 2011 and is expected to be completed in 1.5 years. The area of the mosque will be expanded from the current 356,000 m2 (3,830,000 sq ft) to 400,000 m2 (4,300,000 sq ft). A new gate named after King Abdullah will be built together with two new minarets, bringing their total to 11. The cost of the project is $10.6-billion and after completion the mosque will house over 2.5 million worshipers. The mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Kaaba) will also see expansion and all closed spaces will be airconditioned.