Kiswa: A marvelous artistic work

Updated 29 October 2012
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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.


Grandma Stories: Saudi storyteller teaches values and critical thinking by letting children speak up

Updated 22 April 2018
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Grandma Stories: Saudi storyteller teaches values and critical thinking by letting children speak up

  • Storytelling is not only a fun way to ignite imaginations; it also improves children’s verbal and critical thinking abilities, says Yamani
  • Yamani has read stories in both Arabic and English for more than 6,000 children of 15 nationalities all over the Kingdom and the Gulf region

DHAHRAN: You can see children forming a gigantic circle and listening carefully when story time starts. Ghadeer Yamani, the founder of Grandma Stories, found her passion for spreading the love of reading among children and delivering values through her storytelling sessions.
The Grandma Stories initiative started six years ago when Yamani returned home after spending years abroad owing to her husband’s work. Yamani has read stories in both Arabic and English for more than 6,000 children of 15 nationalities all over the Kingdom and the Gulf region, including the UAE and Bahrain.
“The idea of Grandma Stories was not an epiphany; it came to me after I saw how reading was a huge part of children’s life abroad. I used to see children reading in libraries, in bus stops, in hospitals — everywhere. I wanted to help spread reading culture in my society.
“I wanted children back home to love reading! And with the support of my husband and family, I think I was able to do this,” Yamani told Arab News.
With the prevalence of national reading competitions, school contests and reading clubs, awareness among families and society members is growing. “The interaction and excitement of families and children are amazing when it comes to story time,” said Yamani.
About the title of her initiative, she said: “When I was a child I used to visit my father’s grandmother in Madinah who had a phenomenal way of telling stories and riddles. I still remember how the entire family would get around her as she started telling her tales, and in an atmosphere filled with love and contentment.
“No one ever wanted her stories to finish and nothing could ever distract us while listening to her. That is exactly how I want children to feel in Grandma Stories story time.”
Storytelling is not only a fun way to ignite imaginations; it also improves children’s verbal and critical thinking abilities. Yamani allows children to criticize the stories by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each one. The advancement in such skills is what inspires Yamani and keeps her going.
“The fondest moments throughout my years in storytelling have been when mothers come and tell me how their children used to be shy and reluctant but have started to become fluent and can express themselves well, and that Grandma Stories is the reason for this great progress.”