The governor of Mecca Prince Khalid al-Faisal has ruled out plans to build an international airport outside Saudi Arabia’s holiest city despite the kingdom’s Shura Council approving plans in April.

Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council agreed on 26 April to build an international airport outside Mecca’s haram (forbidden) area, which would enable non-Muslims to enter the city, according to local media reports. Under Saudi Arabian law only Muslims are allowed into Mecca.

The kingdom wants to build the airport to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims and religious tourists that travel to Mecca every year for the hajj and umrah.

About 2.5 million pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia every year to take part in the hajj.

Mecca only has a small domestic airport at present meaning most pilgrims arrive through the hajj terminal of Jeddah airport.

Saudi Arabia is currently spending more than $11bn on upgrading its domestic airports and building new international airports.

In April, contractors submitted bids for the two design and build contracts for the $7bn King Abdulaziz International airport in Jeddah. Saudi Binladin Group is the low bidder for both contracts. The airport will be one of the world’s largest by 2035, with the capacity to handle 80 million passengers a year (MEED 6:4:10).

The $2.4bn development of Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz airport in Medina will be able to accommodate 14 million passengers by 2035. Firms had until 3 May to submit prequalification documents to the kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation.