Saudi Arabia: Grand Mosque to get giant sun umbrellas

Pilgrims using umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun in Mecca Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pilgrims often carry their own sun shades, but now they'll be protected by giant canopies

The largest mosque in the world is going to install giant sun umbrellas to protect worshippers from the heat, it's reported.

The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, will get more than 300 huge canopies to provide shade in its outdoor courtyards, the Arab News website reports. The umbrellas will cover about 275,000 sq m (2.96 million sq ft) of the mosque's outdoor space to make pilgrims more comfortable during daytime prayers, after the scheme was approved by King Abdullah, the website says. Similar umbrellas are already in operation at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, where they work like "blooming flowers", opening in the daytime and closing at night during the summer, taking less than three minutes to complete the process, the website adds. Aside from keeping pilgrims cool in the heat, they're also designed to retain warmth like a roof on chilly winter nights.

The Kaaba, a square building within Mecca's Grand Mosque, is considered Islam's most sacred site, and attracts millions of Muslim pilgrims each year. In 2014, more than two million people performed the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the mosque. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are among the main health problems faced by pilgrims, many of whom take their own umbrellas for shade.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The canopies will provide some relief from the sun for millions of pilgrims who visit the Grand Mosque

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