Aug 06 2012
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Expansion to triple mataf's capacity
Abdul Aziz Saroji said the expanded mataf would be able to accommodate 130,000 pilgrims per hour.
He said the mataf expansion would take three years to complete.
He added: "We cannot stop circumambulation around the Kaaba or prayer in the mataf because of the project."
However, he said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has ordered the project to be completed as quickly as possible.
He added: "Recently we expanded the masaa (the running area between Safa and Marwa), which helped in accommodating a large number of pilgrims over its four floors."
Higher Education Minister Khaled Al-Anqari presented the mataf expansion project to King Abdullah during Ramadan last year. Saroji added: "Our institute was part of the team that presented the project and had provided ideas and expertise for its design."
Work on the project began in June but stopped in July because of Ramadan, when millions of Muslims come for Umrah from different parts of the world.
Saroji added: "Work will resume soon after Ramadan. Once the project is completed it will solve one of the major problems facing pilgrims."
Interior Minister Prince Ahmed chairs the institute's supervising committee, while Higher Education Minister Al-Anqari and Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar are its members.
He said: "Our research institute has conducted about 600 studies that helped in solving many problems facing pilgrims and improving services during Haj and Umrah."
Saroji highlighted the important role the institute plays.
"It is the only institute in the world that conducts studies on Haj and Umrah. More than 38 years have passed since its establishment."
He disclosed the institute's plan to establish research chairs at Saudi universities.
He said: "We have already set up the Prince Naif Chair at Umm Al-Qura for studies on housing in Makkah, Madinah and other holy sites. "It has received a financing of SR 3 million."
Discussing the annual conferences organized by the institute, Saroji said such events aimed to discuss various research papers dealing with ways to improve Haj and Umrah services.
He added: "Many departments have benefited from our research papers in the past."
The institute has conducted 40 studies this Ramadan. About half of them were conducted in Madinah under the directives of Madinah Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed, he pointed out.
These projects include expansion of Rowdah inside the Prophet's Mosque.
He said about 80 researchers outside the institute cooperate with his organization. "During this research season 230 students also cooperated with us to collect various pieces of information."
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