King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz lays the foundation stone this evening for the largest ever expansion of the Haram Mosque in Mecca. He is also opening the Mecca Royal Clock Tower that houses the world's largest clock face as well as the tallest golden minaret and man-made crescent.
The new Mecca expansion project will add an additional prayer space for 1.2 million worshippers. It is estimated that real estates and properties expropriated for the project were valued at about 40 billion Saudi riyals.
The site, where 10,000 workers are already working round-the-clock covers an area of 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet).
The new expansion, named the King Abdullah Expansion, will increase the capacity of the Haram Mosque and its courtyards substantially. It will also help tackle with the huge crowds of pilgrims by facilitating their movement at Haram during the peak seasons of Ramadan and Haj.
The new expansion will be linked by a series of bridges to the existing mosque and the running course between Safa and Marwah.
As for the clock tower, it was constructed on top of tower number five of King Abdul Aziz Endowment project, which consists of seven towers. The Mecca Clock Tower Hotel, on which the clock is situated, is 601 meters high with 76 stories and 858 suites. It overlooks the Haram Mosque.
The clock tower is set to break many records in the construction world, including the tallest hotel, constructed with the tallest clock tower displaying the world's largest clock face.
It will also have the world's largest building floor area, and will become the second tallest building in the world, surpassed only by Dubai's Burj Khalifa.
The giant clock of Mecca is set to tick a new time standard which some scholars believe will be an ideal alternative to GMT. The clock is a masterpiece specialised in engineering design and it is a unique addition to the holy city.
The loud speakers installed at the top of the tower will carry the sound of adhan (call to prayer) for seven kilometres from the Haram Mosque.
The powerful lights in white and green blinking at the time of adhan can be seen from a distance of 30km.
The lights are also helpful for people with hearing difficulties to know prayer times.
The giant clocks will be visible from all districts of Mecca with an overall distance of more than 8km.
The front and back clock measure about 43 by 43 metres while side clocks about 43 by 39 metres.
The clock is six times bigger than London's Big Ben. There are 200m from dial of the clock to the top of the Hilal, which measures 23 meters in diameter. The supreme name of Allah and the Shahada are visible above the clock.
The clock was made of carbon fiber materials with special glass ceramic on top. This hightech material is over three times stronger than steel used in aerospace industry. It is resistant against all climatic conditions and highly durable.
The tower housing the clock was built in a peculiar Islamic style of architecture while the clock has four faces - one in each direction. Trial run of the clock was held at the beginning of last year's Ramadan.
Abdul Nabi Shaheen, "King Abdullah to launch vast Haram expansion project" Gulf News August 19, 2011
"Abdullah opens Mecca mosque extension work" AFP August 19, 2011
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today