By P.K. Abdul Ghafour
MADINAH, Arab News — A number of major welfare projects worth SR9 billion, including expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque to create space for 270,000 additional worshippers, three hospitals and a university campus, will be launched in Madinah by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah during his current visit to the holy city, informed sources said.
The king arrived in Madinah yesterday from the central region of Qasim on the seventh leg of a national tour that has taken him to Jubail, Alkhobar, Qatif, Ahsa and Hail. Crown Prince Sultan, Interior Minister Prince Naif, Prince Khaled ibn Faisal, deputy commander of the National Guard for the Western Region, and other top officials, received the king at Madinah Airport.
The expansion of the eastern courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque and the setting up of 182 large umbrellas to provide shade around the building will create additional prayer area for a total of 270,000 worshippers at a time, the sources said. The expansion, ordered by the king, will cost SR4.7 billion, Madinah Governor Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Majed said.
Abdullah will also launch the Taiba University campus project that includes the establishment of a 400-bed university hospital and five colleges for dentistry, pharmacology, applied sciences, computer engineering, and science. The king will open a 500-bed maternity and children’s hospital and the new headquarters of the Madinah Governorate and lay the foundation stone for the 200-bed National Guard Hospital, the sources said.
The maternity and children’s hospital, the largest such facility in Madinah, was built at a cost of SR447 million. Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie said his ministry planned to establish new hospitals and health centers across the country to extend better health care for citizens and residents.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeea, director general of health affairs at the National Guard, said the new National Guard Hospital in Madinah would have specialty clinics for internal medicine, heart diseases, pediatrics, maternity, ophthalmology and dentistry.
Madinah Governor Abdul Aziz said the king’s visit to Madinah reflected the special place it has in the hearts of the Saudi leadership. He also commended the king for making necessary financial allocations for the expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque, the second holiest mosque in Islam, and for his efforts to enhance the facilities and welfare of both citizens and pilgrims.
In a related development, a number of Saudis including businessmen, have called for the expansion of the airport in Madinah, in line with the city’s position as the second largest gateway for pilgrims after Jeddah. “Prince Muhammad Regional Airport in Madinah deserves expansion and modernization to receive flights from all over the world,” said Abdullah Al-Raheeli, a businessman. “At present I have to travel to Jeddah in order to get an international flight,” he added.
King Abdullah yesterday visited the Prophet’s Mosque to offer prayers and pay respect to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his caliphs. He later attended a reception held by the people of Madinah. More than 30,000 people took part in the ceremony that included an opera staged by about 2,000 artists.