The residents of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, have it easy to know the time. At least they play with a point in their favor. On top of the third tallest building in the world, la torre de Abraj Al Baitstands what is probably the largest clock on the planet —at least that is what the travel guides point out—: a gigantic mechanism with four spheres over 46 meters in diameter and needles worthy of Brobdingnag, Gulliver’s country of giants. The hands that mark the hours measure 17 meters and the minute hands 22. For reference and to understand its enormous dimensions, the maximum length a trailer can have in Spain it is 16.50 meters.
The size of the clock is in proportion to that of its own tower. The mechanism crowns the tallest structure in the Abraj Al Bait complex, 601 meters high and more than 100 floors, making it the tallest building in Saudi Arabia. Across the globe, he is only surpassed by the Burj Khalifa, of 828 meters; and the shanghai tower, of 623 m. The complex is located next to the mosque Masjid al-Haram and the Kaaba, the main sacred space for Muslims. The towers, in fact, have space for prayer. Its enormous size allows it to accommodate other uses, such as a shopping center with capacity for 65,000 people or a five star hotel.
Visible from miles away
To crown the structure, those responsible for the Abraj Al Bait complex —which total seven towers and it was inaugurated just over a decade ago, in 2011—they wanted design a unique mechanism. So much so, in fact, that the skyscraper that houses it (Fairmont) is often referred to as Makkah Royal Clocj Tower o, directamente, Mecca Clock Tower.
The clock includes four spheres that look towards its four sides, endowed with impressive mosaics that add, together, 98 million pieces of glass. It stands about 530 meters above the ground, is illuminated with two million LED lights and its dimensions allow it to be visible —assure their managers— 25 kilometers away. Above the clock rises a pinnacle ending in a crescent that marks the roof of the complex. Just below, at 558 meters high, there is a platform that offers spectacular views of Mecca.
On the different faces of the clock there are allusions to Allah and the Koran and about 21,000 white and green colored lights —those of the flag of Saudi Arabia— crown its upper part. Five times a day, coinciding with the prayer of Islam, the light bulbs flash with a signal that can be seen even from 30 km away. In the center of each of the spheres, the Saudi coat of arms also shines.
To reinforce the interest of the building and the mechanism, the upper floors of the tower they also house an astronomy museum, the Clock Tower Museum. The enclosure is equipped with its own observation area and its rooms address, among other topics, the measurement of time.
With its launch, Abraj Al Bait’s watch dwarfed other great world dials. The most popular is perhaps Big Ben, better known, yes; but much smaller. The mechanism that marks the hours for the City has a diameter of 7.5 meterss and its hands, although huge, are much smaller than those of the Saudi Arabian device: the one that marks the hour measures 2.7 meters and the one for minutes 4.27 meters. The clock faces are raised about 55 meters from the ground.