How the making of the Kaaba cover, kiswa, has changed over the centuries
MAKKAH: Every year on the ninth or tenth day of Dhul Al-Hijja, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar, the holy Kaaba is adorned with a new cover (kiswa) on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha .
Abdulhamid bin Said Al-Maliki, General Vice President for Affairs of King Abdulaziz Complex for Kaaba Kiswa Making, said the new kiswa will be draped over the Kaaba on the first day of Muharram instead of the ninth day of Dhul Al-Hijja. , marking the beginning of the new Islamic year.
Making the kiswa is not an easy task. Skilled workers and technicians dedicate hours to accurately and flawlessly create and embroider the kiswa to cover the Kaaba, which is a focal point for Muslims around the world throughout the year.
Arab News visited the King Abdulaziz Complex for Making the Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah to witness first-hand how the kiswa is made.
The 100,000 square meter complex was previously known as the Kiswa Factory, which was established in 1928. Its name was changed to King Abdulaziz Complex for the manufacture of the Kaaba Kiswa in memory of King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, following a royal decree. of King Salman in 2017.
Al-Maliki said the complex has seen many developments, such as the shift from traditional manual labor to an automated system.
Kiswa is made from scratch at the resort, starting with sourcing silk and cotton yarns that are quality tested in its lab.
These yarns are dyed and woven into the fabric using high end machinery. After this process, the fabric undergoes rigorous physical testing to ensure its strength and durability to withstand all kinds of environmental factors throughout the year.
Ahmed Al-Sulami, quality analyst at the lab, said: “We test tensile (strength) and elongation and the effect of light on the dyes. The tensile strength must be greater than a thousand kilogram force.
The 658 square meter kiswa is made from 670 kilos of black silk. It consists of 47 pieces of silk sewn together by special machines.
“The sides of the Kaaba are not equal and are not considered a cube of symmetrical lengths. Each side of the Kaaba’s cube has a different length and width,” said Salman Al-Luqman, who has headed the complex’s textile department for about 40 years.
The kiswah includes the names and attributes of Allah: Ya Allah, Ya Mannan, Ya Dayyan, Subhanallahi Wa Bihamdihi Subhanallahil Azeem and La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah.
Al-Luqman told Arab News: “In the first stage, the threads are wound on spools of the required length. After that, the warping process takes place, during which the threads are collected and transferred to the weaving machine that works with the jacquard machine, which is the secret behind the woven texts on the black silk fabric.
The automated weaving department also makes the Ihram, the white cotton that covers the kiswah when it is lifted about 3 meters from the bottom at the start of the Hajj season.
The kiswa then moves on to the gilding and embroidery department, where the beautiful golden sashes around the Kaaba and the door curtain are hand-made with precision.
Sami Muzayyan, the supervisor of the Kiswa gilding and embroidery department, told Arab News that more than 50 skilled artisans and embroiderers, aged between 23 and 60, hand-embroidered verses from the Holy Quran and other prayers with 100 kilos of pure silver and 120 kilos of silver threads covered with 21 carat gold on 56 different pieces of silk.
Muzayyan said, “The wires are not pure gold, because if they are, they won’t be flexible enough. Rather, it is made of German-made gold-plated silver with a good level of flexibility to make the procedure easier. The Kaaba texts are first printed according to the manuscripts established in Thuluth (a type of Islamic calligraphy) created by the former Kaaba calligrapher Abdulrahim Amin Bukhari.
The door of the Kaaba is composed of five curtains connecting different Quranic verses and three complete suras: Al-Fatiha, Al-Falaq and An Nas, and Quraysh.
In addition to the golden belt, the kiswa has 17 qandeels, lamp-shaped medallions each with a name of Allah: Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum, Allahu Akbar, Ya Rahman Ya Rahim.
He said the embroiderers used the manasij, a traditional wooden hoop.
White fabric is pulled between them before laying pieces of black silk on top. It is then tightened so that the workers can do their embroidery. To give texture to the embroidery, the letters are filled with cotton threads before being covered in gold and silver.
The kiswa is distinguished by three things: “Makkah Al-Mukarramah” embroidered in Arabic, the year it will be used and the name of the reigning king.
It takes eight to 10 months to complete all the embroidery. When finished, the silk pieces are gathered, sewn together and gilded. All parts of the kiswa are stored in special warehouses at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques and can only be used after permission from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The complex will soon become a cultural attraction and create more job opportunities.
“We are working closely with the General Chairman of the complex, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, to develop programs, initiatives and projects that will help make the complex a cultural landmark and a point of attraction for all who come. in Mecca, so that visitors from all over the world can have a rich experience,” said Al-Malki.
The complex is working on the use of artificial intelligence to enrich the visitor experience through robots that will help visitors in different languages by explaining the origin of kiswa, the choice of Quranic verses and calligraphy.
Al-Maliki also said that some initiatives will focus on empowering women and training Saudi women to participate in kiswa making and embroidery in the future.
The resort will also soon launch a restoration center, where different parts of the kiswa can be restored.