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Kiswa: A marvelous artistic work

JEDDAH: The Holy Kaaba in the heart of the Grand Mosque in Makkah is the center of attraction today when a new Kiswa (cover) is put on the holy structure soon after the Fajr prayer in the presence of top officials and a large number of Muslim faithful.
The Kiswa is an auspicious ceremony to reflect the greatness of the Holy Kaaba, to which Muslims all over the world turn in prayer at least five times a day.
There are differences of opinion on who put the first Kiswa on the Kaaba after it was built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail (peace be upon them).
Some scholars argue that the first Kiswa was made by the Prophet Ismail, but there is no evidence to support this.
Others affirm that the first Kiswa was made by Adnan bin Ad, a great-great-grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), but this claim also lacks authentication. The first historically verifiable record of the draping of the Kaaba attributes the honor to Tabu Karab Aswad, king of Humayyur in Yemen.
According to Muhammad Abdullah Bajudah, director general of the Kaaba Kiswa Factory in Umm Al-Joud in Makkah, the Kiswa changing ceremony has been taking place on Dhul Hijjah 9, when the pilgrims assemble in the plain of Arafat at the peak of Haj pilgrimage.
“The ceremony starts after Fajr prayer and will continue until Asr prayer,” Bajudah said, adding that the old Kiswa would be kept in the factory’s warehouse. He estimated the total cost of the Kiswa at more than SR 20 million.
More than 240 people work in the factory’s different departments. It has the largest computerized tailoring machine in the world with a length of 16 m. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has ordered a study to develop the factory.
Skilled craftsmen use a combination of the latest technology, ancient looms and artistic calligraphy to produce a work of exotic beauty. Usually, the new cloth is to be ready two months before Haj. A Kiswa consumes about 700 kg of silk and 120 kg of golden and silver threads. It consists of 47 pieces of cloth, and each piece is 14 m long and 101 cm wide. The Kiswa is wrapped around the Kaaba and fixed to the ground with copper rings.
Traditionally, the pattern of Kiswa has not changed. The material is made up of silk, and a gold embroidered band is sewn about three fourth the distance from the bottom. The part covering the door, which stands 2.13 m above the ground on the northeast-side wall, is covered separately with richly embroidered Qur’anic verses, leaving an opening for the black stone.
In 1926, a factory was set up in Makkah by King Abdul Aziz to make the Kiswa. Initially, all craftsmen were brought from India.
It took more than 100 craftsmen the whole year to weave the cloth on ancient wooden handlooms and to embroider it in magnificent calligraphy. The present factory was opened on March 8, 1977, during the time of King Khaled.

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