Haj Pilgrim Numbers Cut By 20% Due To Expansion Work In Makkah

Construction work taking place in the Al Masjid Al Haram area
Construction work taking place in the Al Masjid Al Haram area

The number of pilgrims that may perform the Haj this year has been cut back by Saudi Arabia due to construction work aimed at expanding the holy site of Makkah, the Haj minister said.

The authorities had decided to reduce by half the number of pilgrims coming from within Saudi Arabia, and by about 20 per cent those from abroad, said Bandar Hajjar.

“This is an exceptional and temporary decision,” the minister said, quoted by SPA state news agency late on Saturday.

Some 3.1 million pilgrims performed the Haj last year, most of them from abroad.

“The expansion plans [of the Al Masjid Al Haram] aim to provide safety and as much services as possible for pilgrims, Hajjar said,

The mosque expansion projects are aimed at enabling pilgrims to complete their Haj and Umrah rites with ease. The Mataf [the circumambulation areas around the Kaaba, the heart of Al Masjid Al Haram] will also see expansion, he noted.

The pilgrimage quota for each country, as set by agreements already signed by the government of Saudi Arabia and governments of other countries, is 1000 per one million of the total population of each country, the Saudi minister further noted.

Hajjar said the expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah would add 400,000 square metres, raising its capacity to accommodate 2.2 million people at the same time.

The mosque houses the Kaaba — the cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims worldwide pray.


The decision comes also as Saudi Arabia battles the spread of the Sars-like MERS virus, which has killed 28 people in the kingdom since September out of 33 victims worldwide.

This year the Haj falls in October. [AFP]