By: TARIQ AL-THAGAFI

Source: Arab News

MAKKAH: Folding umbrellas will be installed at Mecca’s Grand Mosque’s courtyards and roof next year to protect pilgrims from the sun and heat, said commanders of Hajj security forces.

The umbrellas will cover 53×53 meters, making them the largest in the world. The commander of the forces responsible for security at the mosque, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Al-Ahmadi, said temperatures are quite low inside the mosque due to air conditioning, but the umbrellas will provide comfort for pilgrims in the courtyards and on the roof.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah has nearly 250 umbrellas for the comfort of the pilgrims. Like blooming flowers, the umbrellas are programmed to fold and unfold in minutely delayed sequence to avoid collision between their moving parts. Their near-silent operation is automatically aligned with changes in the daily temperature. They open each morning, creating a translucent ceiling, and retract each evening in less than three minutes.

In summer, the open umbrellas provide daytime shade and reflect away much of the sun’s radiant energy. When closed at night, they allow residual heat absorbed by the stone floors and walls to escape back into the atmosphere. The process is reversed in winter. When temperatures are relatively low, umbrellas are closed during the day to allow the winter sun to warm the site, and opened at night to retain heat near ground level.

The mosque itself is air-conditioned. Lowering temperatures in the surrounding courtyards reduces the demand for cooling inside. Shading the courtyards accomplishes this, plus providing more comfortable areas for pilgrims and worshippers. (See: http://www.arabnews.com/saudi-arabia/news/674691)