In December 2014, a few weeks before his death, King Abdullah ordered the installation of umbrellas in the courtyards surrounding the Grand Mosque, reported the Saudi Gazette.
This is the first of the eight high-tech giant umbrellas and 54 small ones to be installed in the Grand Mosque in next four months .
Being manufactured in Germany, each canopy will consist of a giant clock, screens of guidelines for worshippers, air-conditioners, and surveillance cameras. Each umbrella will have a height of 45 meters and weigh 16 tons. It will give shade to an area of 2,400 square meters when open.
Some 25 engineers, specialist technicians, and safety experts from Germany will supervise the installation process and electronic operating mechanism. Another 54 small umbrellas will also be installed in the northern courtyard, covering a total area of 19,200 square meters.
As part of the project, 122 benches for worshippers to take rest as well as service buildings will be built. The infrastructure work for the installation of canopies have already started.
The entire northern plaza stretching from King Fahd Expansion structure to the King Abdullah Expansion structure of the mosque will have canopies when the project is completed. The shaded area will have the capacity to accommodate around 400,000 worshippers.
Nearly 250 similar umbrellas have been installed on the plazas around the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah earlier. Like blooming flowers, the umbrellas are programmed to fold and unfold in minutely delayed sequence to avoid collision between their moving parts.