File - Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in the early hours of Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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Saudi Arabia Thursday officially opens a $1 billion aviation gateway aimed at Muslim pilgrims, in the kingdom's first airport privatization.About 2 million pilgrims annually visit the western cities of Mecca and Medina for the hajj, which this year takes place in September.Medina airport's annual passenger capacity will rise from last year's 5.7 million to 8 million, before doubling to 16 million by the end of the 25-year agreement for operating the facility, TAV said.Aeroports de Paris is among seven candidates invited to bid for a concession at the country's busiest airport in Jeddah, south of Medina, GACA President Suleiman al-Hamdan told AFP last month on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show.
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