Saudi’s king orders huge mosque expansion

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered a major expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Madinah, it was announced on Friday.

Dr Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, the Gulf kingdom’s Minister of Finance, made the announcement in comments published by Saudi Press Agency.

He said that the project would be implemented in three phases.

The first phase will accommodate more than 800,000 worshippers, he said, adding that the second and third phases will accommodate a further 800,000 worshippers.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia said its ongoing SR80bn ($21.33bn) expansion of Makkah’s Grand Mosque will eventually allow the Islamic holy site to accommodate 1.5m worshippers.

The move comes as Islamic tourism continues to grow rapidly and has proved a huge earner for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom.

According to a report by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, domestic tourism alone in the country increased 13.5 percent last year, generating $22bn.

Tourism accounts for about 3.1 percent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product and for about 7.2 percent in the kingdom’s non-oil sector.