Finally the moment came when we would actually see the Kaaba, the center to which every Muslim faces when praying, the house that is the most sacred place on earth.
The first encounter with Haram, and I saw scores of cranes working inside and outside Haram.
I had heard about the construction for the expansion project going on but this wasn’t what I thought. The first disappointment was entering the Mosque and not seeing Kaaba from there. There were boards erected everywhere separating the areas open for people and the areas under construction. It took us an hour and a half to discover the Mosque. We spent quite a few minutes coming to terms with the fact that we will have to navigate around the cardboards and the construction sites.
When we first reached the Mataf area and saw Kaaba, it was a mixed feeling. This was the moment for which we had travelled so far. Due to the construction going on, the moment was marred a bit. The cover of the Kaaba was dusty due to the debris and sand from the construction work. Despite everything, it was kind of hard to believe that we were actually there.
Only 25% of the mosque is open for people; 75% is under construction. The mataf (the area for tawaf) was limited to the blue circle you can see in the above map. There was no other area on ground floor, except a corridor towards the sa’i area. Half of the fist floor including sai was functional. Second floor could be reached only from outside the mosque, because of all the construction going on. Once the mosque is complete, the second floor will be reachable from inside as well.
Escalators have been installed or are being installed in various areas of the mosque for the Zaireen.
Temporary Tawaf rings have been installed, which have been fucntional for the past two years. The surprising discovery was that they are made of plastic. The ring, the pillars, the boundaries, everything is plastic. And at any time there are some 2ooo people performing tawaf on each ring.
Only one entrance was open and that was Bab Malik Fahad. There are many small entrances that belong to the same gate. They are designated as women only gates, but since only one side of the mosque was open, anyone could use any entrance. On the main entrance, a screen guides to the areas of the mosque that may have space for the Zaireen.
Once the spaces are filled, all the gates are barricaded with green plastic barriers, a sign that the mosque is filled to capacity. This is necessary as the people given Umra visa are far more than the current capacity of the mosque, as 75% of the mosque is closed due to construction.