Al-Masjid Al-Haram ] is in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds one of Islam's holiest places, the Kaaba. Muslims face in the direction of the Kaaba while performing Salat. One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so, includes circumambulation of the Kaaba. 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 two million worshipers during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world. Unlike many other mosques which are segregated, men and women can worship at Al-Masjid Al-Haram together.
The first major renovation under the Saudi kings was done between 1955 and 1973. In this renovation, four more minarets were added, the ceiling was refurnished, and the floor was replaced with artificial stone and marble. The Mas'a gallery (Al-Safa and Al-Marwah) is included in the Masjid via roofing and enclosements. During this renovation many of the historical features built by the Ottomans, particularly the support columns, were demolished. The second Saudi renovations 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 Masjid 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, 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.
Current expansion project
In 2007, the mosque underwent a fourth extension project which is estimated to last until 2020. King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Azeez plans to increase the mosque's capacity to 2 million.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 air conditioned.