Friday, March 24, 2017

King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah

Arrival date: 25th June 2016, Departure date: 6th July 2016

I booked the umrah trip following my cousin's advice, that is with the travel agent; Zahafiz Travel & Tours. Due to my busy schedules I missed the opportunity to attend a proper umrah course, hence I depended heavily on the Hajj guide book that my sister lent me. I took to study that guide book during a 9 hours and 10 minutes direct flight vide Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah. The flight mostly full with the pilgrims from Malaysia and Indonesia whilst others are on commercial transit. We arrived at almost maghrib prayer time, at dawn and I am truly impressed with Jeddah Airport, i.e. King Abdulaziz International Airport that was built to cater for pilgrimage. We had to wait at the cozy arrival hall as the time to break fast was nearing to our arrival time. All immigration counter is closed to allow everyone on fasting for their break and prayer. As usual, I will start my travelogue with how the airport is being built.

King Abdulaziz International Airport photo shared from "" website

King Abdulaziz International Airport is a Hajj Terminal airport located 19 km to the north of Jeddah. It was named after King Abdulaziz Al Saud, inaugurated in 1981. The airport is the busiest airport of Saudi Arabia and is 3rd largest airport in the Saudi kingdom. It is known for Hajj terminal since it is specially built for Islamic pilgrims going to Mecca annually. The airport can handle about 80,000 passengers at the same time. It occupies an area of 15 square kilometres where it accommodates not only the airport proper, but serves for a royal terminal, facilities of Prince Abdullah Air Base for the Royal Saudi Air Force and a housing facilities for the airport staff. The airport construction began in 1974, and was completed in 1980. It is opened for service after being officially inaugurated in April 1981 on 31st May 1981.

Jeddah town visible from the plane

The sun was about to set when we landed, a sign that the fast is coming to an end

Due to Jeddah's proximity to Islam's holy city of Mecca, the airport is notable for one feature in particular, i.e. “The Hajj Terminal”. It was specially built to handle pilgrims to take part in the rituals associated with the annual Hajj, which offers many facilities. It can accommodate 80,000 travelers at one time. The airport is designed by the Bangladeshi engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan from an architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). The designed is known for its tent-like roof structure, designed by Consulting Engineer Horst Berger. The structure was designed with 10 modules, each consisting of 21 "tents" of white colored Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric which is suspended from pylons. It is grouped together into 2 blocks of 5 modules each and separated by a landscaped mall between the blocks. Only customs, baggage handling and similar facilities are located in an air-conditioned building. The vast majority of the complex, called "Terminal Support Area", is a flexible open area, conceived to function like a village, complete with souk (market) and mosque. There's no walls as the area is purposely sheltered from the intense sun while allowing for natural ventilation.

The large airport filled with mostly only Saudi's Airline planes ... I was impressed with the sight! 

We boarded the airport bus to the hajj terminal

The Hajj Terminal received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983. According to the jury, "the brilliant and imaginative design of the roofing system met the awesome challenge of covering this vast space with incomparable elegance and beauty". At almost five million square feet  or about 465,000 m², the Jeddah airport Hajj Terminal is estimated to be among the world's largest air terminals after Beijing Capital International Airport, Dubai International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport. Many airlines from Muslim and non-Muslim countries have used the Hajj Terminal.

Cozy arrival hall with proper toilet that our group utilized for breaking fast and pray before immigration counter opens 
My aunt at immigration counter, waited patiently in queue line

Jeddah-KAIA airport serves as a major hub for Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) who originally had an exclusive use of the South Terminal. However, in 2007 the privately owned Saudi carriers i.e. Flynas and Sama Airlines were also given permission to share the terminals and the facilities. Due to the closure of Sama Airlines, the terminal is currently used by Saudia and Flynas. The terminal is now also used by Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya Airways, and Korean Air. The North Terminal at Jeddah airport is used by all other foreign airlines.

A friendly friend that I met at Jeddah airport on arrival, who later became inseparable

The new King Abdulaziz International Airport has undergone a 3 stage expansion project commenced in September 2006, and is currently scheduled for completion in 2018. The project is designed to increase the airport's yearly capacity from 13 million to 80 million passengers mostly due to expansion of the Holy Mecca city itself. The expansion includes airfield hard standing and paved areas, lighting, fuel network systems and storm water drainage network. I hope to see major differences this year should I be able to visit during Hajj 1438. Please do pray that I will receive my invitation to participate in the Hajj from Tabung Haji soon. Honestly, I haven't received an answer to the appeal that I officially submitted to them on 1st December 2016. I would lie if I say that I'm not nervous .. but I depend only to Allah to give a little of His miracle to me.

Exit door leading to a large meeting/gathering points
The large tent covers the large areas filled with markets, toilets and prayer hall

Included in the expansion program is a newly constructed support services building, renovation of the existing South and North Terminals and upgrades to the existing runway and airfield systems to accommodate the Airbus A380. The 3 stages refurbishment, according to GACA, i.e the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia, it will marked by staged capacity increase to 30 million, 60M and 80M passengers per year. Based on the current traffic increases, the existing South Terminal will need to serve about 21 million passengers per year over the next 20 years to meet passengers growing demand. The project has reached the final stages of planning and design, and King Abdullah, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has approved a budget of SR4 billion to build the futuristic new airport to international standards.

Another clusters of tent outside the waiting hall where our bus made its final turn on our departure back to KL

Large crowds waiting for their flights home on 1st day of eid, 1437 @ 2016

Soon the Prince Majed Street will connect to the Al-Laith Highway (you may view from the Google Maps) from the southward terminal, forming a fast north-south transit route. Beside a plan for a better improve road access, there are talks and plans for a high-speed rail link serving the airport similar to other modern airports in many cities of the world. Starting at Prince Majed Street, the link will run into the airport and hook up with terminals. In my opinion GACA has done a terrific job in bringing King Abdul Aziz International Airport to another level of standard to serve their passengers. I pray that 1 day Saudi Arabia would open their airport to all and allow a non-muslim to enter the Holy city for them to view the pride and the beauty of the great mosque themselves. 

My aunt with her clearly shopaholic luggage

And I found myself a best friend with only positive talks, pure heart.. I'm being bless again

Remarks: Source of airport info from Wikipedia with photos of few friends that I made during the short trip.

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