The Hajj Terminal at the King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah, is no ordinary airport terminal. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as part of the master plan for the broader airport and air force base facility, the Hajj Terminal, officially inaugurated in 1981, was purpose-built for the influx of religious pilgrims that stream into Saudi Arabia for just a few weeks each year as part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj has been a part of Islam since the religion’s founding–it is one of the “five pillars” of Islam–but with the advent of jumbo jets and government subsidized pilgrimage trips from Muslim countries around the world, the number of Hajjis soared from an average of 50,000 in the 1960s to 500,000 in 1975. SOM’s massive Teflon-coated fiberglass tent-like structure would accommodate 950,000 Hajjis by 1985, and today millions of pilgrims pass through the facility each year during the Hajj.
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