BY: NURUL FARINA NAZLAN
The construction of the Abraj Al Bait Giant Clock Tower opposite the Masjidil Haram in Mecca was the talk of the entire world community, in fact it boasted the uniqueness and grandeur of Islamic architecture when the mega-project was completed in 2012.
But many do not know that the remarkable project was supported by the services and expertise of 14 Malaysian youths, beginning from construction and installation of composite materials on the 601-metre high Clock Tower, including installation and reopening of the temporary mataf (the place for performing the tawaf ritual) of the Grand Mosque.
They were not only responsible for works at the Clock Tower but were also involved with the structuring and building works throughout the Masjidil Haram expansion process. In fact, the 14 lucky young men from a wide range of expertise, who are professionals working for the Premier Composite Technologies (PCT) LLC, Dubai, a sub-contractor of Saudi Bin Laden Group which is the monopoly company for majority of projects in Saudi Arabia, played important roles in the clock tower component installation process.
Since 2010, they are based in Mecca to this day for the Masjidil Haram expansion which the Saudi Government is doing rapidly to cater for the growing number of umrah and hajj pilgrims every year.
True to the words that we can never imagine what is in store for us, the 14 young men never expected to be lucky enough to be among those chosen to serve and live in Holy land as aspired by every Muslims.
Their expertise and experiences are the main factor for them to be entrusted by PCT for this project.
Nobody would have guessed, Malaysia possess highly-skilled citizens who would carve their names out on the international scale besides creating their own history by becoming among the important people in the expansion process.
In fact, facing the Kaaba everyday is a blessing which is unrivalled from Allah SWT besides having the opportunity to perform umra and hajj every year and being Muslims are among the contributing factor for their presence in the holy land of Mecca.
Nevertheless, now in their seventh year abroad, the time-constraint and work-demands are among their sacrifices, as some of them need to leave their wives, children and families behind in Malaysia.
Selected for the second biggest Masjidil Haram project
The 14 young men’s expertise is still recognised when once again they are being selected the second biggest Masjidil Haram project, which involves installation and removing a temporary ‘mataf’ component, which requires professionalism and thoroughness in the safety aspect for themselves, workers and the millions of pilgrims in the Kaaba area.
The temporary Mataf installed in 2013 was totally removed and was brought out from the Sahn area in the Kaaba, involving the total workforce slogging day and night for 24 days and 24 hours, in that operation in 2016.
Here, the commitment from the 14 young men with vast experience in various engineering field and as professional ‘climber’ were sought to complete temporary ‘mataf’ removal.
This is because to be an international ‘climber’, one needs a special certificate issued by the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), involving a detailed course being given prior to being acknowledged as a professional ‘climber’.
The works of PCT Engineer and project Site Manager, Hairul Nizam Baharudin together with 13 other young Malaysian men is in fact something that Malaysia is proud of as he is the main person driving the three projects in Masjidil Haram which are the Abraj Al Bait Giant Clock Tower, temporary ‘mataf’ and Shami Extensions, assisted by other compatriots.
Hairul Nizam, 40 said, he and his colleagues are proud with the trust and opportunity given by the company to enable them to serve and contribute their ideas in these mega projects in the holy city of Mecca Al-Mukarramah, which is not just the talk in the Muslim world but other countries too.
The opportunity to work together and join forces with fellow countrymen as well as men from other Muslim countries is a priceless experience in his life.
“The main challenge in the beginning was communication as my workers are from many different countries such as Saudi Arabia, India, Iran, Syria and Pakistan. So we use English language to make the situation easier.
“Nevertheless, I can’t deny that there were times when miscommunication arises making me feel less efficient in giving instructions and guidance to my staff due to the language and cultural difference.
“It is no longer a major problem now though the constraint is still there. This is because I try my best to use several methods to facilitate the process of giving instructions and message delivery to my employees,” he said to SelangorKini.
Experience is his backing abroad
Hairul Nizam said he is thankful to be supported by 13 countrymen and groups of PCT engineers and contractors involved besides his 15 years of experience, from the beginning of the project until today.
He also admitted that there has been no conflict and problem as every employee is committed, disciplined and professional in completing the project in a consistent and committed manner.
“Above all, I need to effectively manage multiple projects at one time, and it is not only relating to management but also covers all aspects of engineering, structural design and architecture.
“Not many people are skilled and knowledgeable in the operation and in the high-tech composite field, which gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills with the contractors involved. Besides that, we need to maximise all our energy, time, ability and patience to achieve the set target,” he said.
Although equipped with vast experience, the father of one child admitted that much remains to be explored for the skills and expertise gained to benefit not only himself but can be shared with all employees and serves as general information to the contractors, including Malaysians.
“Without determination, tenacity, motivation, prayers and support from my wife, family and colleagues, it would not have been easy for me to achieve what I have now especially being abroad,” he said.
The important role of ‘Malaysian Spiderman’
Hairul Nizam said the abilities of his 13 of his fellow countrymen cannot be taken lightly as well, as their roles are important in every project undertaken.
Nicknamed the ‘Malaysian Spidermen’ in Mecca, certainly we cannot imagine the courage they have by just relying on the safety rope to install a component in the clock tower structure at a height of 601 metres above sea level.
We probably do not know the stakes taken by the 14 Malaysians risking their lives to fulfil their responsibilities.
Hairul Nizam explained that PCT installation and monitoring operation headed by Armiazizul Ariffin is not only in the day, in fact the company also monitors the operation at night supervised by Hashim Ripin and Zulkefli Sulaiman.
Meanwhile, Armiazizul, 39, said it is a satisfaction to be in high places and he is excited by the profession as a ‘climber’.
He is experienced in this field began in 1998 when he started as an ordinary worker before pursuing a career as a professional ‘climber’ in 2000. Until today, he climbs high-rise buildings with the expertise as an ‘industrial climber’.
“Climbing expertise is divided into two which are industrial climber and sports climber. There are companies who need climbers with academic qualification in civil or mechanical engineering.
“Working abroad is the biggest challenge with having to supervise 120 people for the clock tower and temporary mataf project. I have to be responsible for every operation and ‘climbers’ under my supervision. In addition, I need to continuously monitor and be meticulous on workers’ safety aspects during the operation and installation due to time constraint in meeting the dateline.
“Accuracy is very important as I head the day-team and need to handover the task to the night-team.
“The most unforgettable experience for me was during the Abraj Al Bait Clock Tower project, during the installation of the clock-hand, when I was carried 480 metre high by a crane with the nine tonne building structure.
“During installation of the crescent structure which was carried by a crane together with a 17-tonne component at a height of 590 metres, there were strong wind and storms. I was swinging on the safety-rope and at that time, the component could not be lifted up due to sand-storm. I was really panic and could only have faith in Allah SWT to save me. That was the most frightening experience for me,” he said.
Currently, Hairul Nizam and the ICT workforce are intensely working to complete the task given by the developer and contractor in the Masjidil Haram expansion project.
He and his team express their gratitude for the support and motivation given by Malaysian pilgrims who they meet in the mosque area, who also shared the sense of pride when they know the project has a Malaysian touch.
We cannot imagine how these 14 young men can live their lives abroad with patience against the difference in communication and culture in the middle east. However, their commitment and high morale has enabled them to continue to be positive in ensuring all their tasks are completed on time despite having to leave their families thousands of miles behind.
In spite of all that, Hairul Nizam and 13 other colleagues hope to be given the opportunity to serve and work in their own homeland if there is a competitive offer.
However, when will they get this opportunity as their hard-work seems to be ignored by the Malaysian Government who is willing to spend a lot of money to hire foreigners when we have expertise sought by the world.
Do not become like the Malay proverb ‘monkeys in the jungle are fed with milk while your own children are left to starve’. And until when will we deny the ability of our local children when the world recognises their abilities and skills. In the end, who lose?
14 ‘Malaysian Spidermen’
Hairul Nizam Baharuddin
Mohamed Norhisam Hashim
Mohd Anuar Abu
Mohd Najib Ahmad
Muhamad Armi Azizuddin
Mohd Zaidi Abu Shah
Mohd Hamka Alipyan
Airhan Mohd Rasullan
# Nurul Farina is SelangorKini’s Editor and the information above was shared by Amera Sabrena Dato’ Ahmad Sobri (Hairul Nizam Baharuddin’s wife) who is currently in Mecca Al-Mukarramah
BY: NURUL FARINA NAZLAN