Steeped in history: The Kaaba’s cover Kiswa

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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AFP)
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The Kiswa of the Kaaba is replaced on Saturday Aug. 10, 2019. (SPA)
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The Kiswa of the Kaaba is replaced on Saturday Aug. 10, 2019. (SPA)
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The Kiswa of the Kaaba is replaced on Saturday Aug. 10, 2019. (SPA)
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The Kiswa of the Kaaba is replaced on Saturday Aug. 10, 2019. (SPA)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The Kiswa of the Kaaba is replaced on Friday August 9, 2019. (SPA)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The curtain is fabricated at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 10 August 2019

Steeped in history: The Kaaba’s cover Kiswa

  • Craftsmen have labored through the centuries in different cities to manufacture the fabric every year
  • The Kiswa has been made in Saudi Arabia since 1926 at the King Abdul Aziz complex in Makkah

JEDDAH: In a tradition dating back centuries, a new black curtain, or Kiswa, is draped around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Makkah once a year.

The fabric is made of high-quality silk, with verses of the Qur’an woven into it in the form of gold and silver thread running across the Kaaba’s belt.

As pilgrims around the world begin their Hajj journeys, about 200 craftsmen of Saudi and other nationalities are engaged in producing the black curtain at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah.

They are dyeing, weaving, printing and manufacturing fabric pieces with great care and skill. Once perfumed and stitched to perfection, the finished silk curtain will be unveiled on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dhu Al-Hijjah.

Before the establishment of the complex in 1926 by King Abdul Aziz, the Kiswa was supplied by different countries, most prominently Egypt. 

A wide variety of fabrics and colors have been used through the centuries for manufacturing the Kiswa, a duty that is considered sacred.

From the writings of Arab historian Abu Al-Walid Al-Azraqi, it is known that Muslim Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab had the Kaaba draped with a light, white Egyptian cloth called Al-Qabbati, after sending a request to Amr ibn Al-Aas, governor of Egypt at the time, according to Egyptian history researcher Abdelmajid Abdel Aziz.

Uthman ibn Affan, the third caliph, ordered two Kiswas to be produced. The first, made of silk tapestry, was used to adorn the Kaaba on the first day of Hajj. The second, made from Al-Qabbati, was applied on the 27th day of Ramadan.

The tradition of annually draping the Kaaba with a new Kiswa continued for centuries, but the timing differed from one Islamic era to another.

During the Umayyad period, a new Kiswa was draped around the Kaaba on Ashura, the 10th day of the first month of Muharram.

It was replaced by another Kiswa at the end of Ramadan. The practice remained unchanged during the Abbasid period.

The rule of Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma’moon saw the Kaaba get a new Kiswa three times a year. The first was a red silk Kiswa on the first day of Hajj; the second was the white Al-Qabbati on the eve of the seventh Hijri month; and the third, made of white silk, on the 27th day of Ramadan.

Until 1192, the order to make the Kiswa always went to craftsmen who lived on an island in Tannis Lake (now known as Al-Manzila Lake) in Egypt’s northeast. Tannis bagged this coveted role by dint of its reputation as a textile-manufacturing hub.

But Salah al-Din — the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty — ordered Tannis to be abandoned during the Christian Crusades. The manufacturing skills migrated to other parts of Egypt, notably Cairo.

The technology of the textile industry became more developed after the 13th century AD. The materials and techniques that began to be used ensured that a typical Kiswa did not wear out within a year.

During the Mamluk  dynasty,  Kiswa production became very expensive, forcing the sultan, Al-Nasir ibn Qalawun, to order Egypt’s governor to use the taxes from the villages of Bassous and Abul-Gheit for the purpose. But after many years, the tax revenue proved insufficient.

Later on, the cost of Kiswa production by the  Egyptians was covered by an endowment created by Al-Nasir Ibn Qalawun.

During his rule, Sultan Soliman Al-Qanooni realized that the money from the endowment was insufficient, so he ordered the acquisition of seven villages in addition to three acquired in 1567 AD to create a dedicated revenue stream.

The proceeds from the 10 villages were then earmarked for manufacturing Kiswas for the Kaaba. This arrangement later proved to be the greatest contribution by Ottoman rulers.

Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Egypt from 1805 to 1848, ordered the expenses for making the Kiswa to be met by the state treasury.

This is how the historic Dar Al-Khoronfosh workshop came into existence in Cairo’s Al Gamaleya neighborhood.

In 1926, after the takeover of the Hijaz region, King Abdul Aziz ordered the establishment of a Kiswa factory in Makkah. The site was the Ajyad neighborhood near the Grand Mosque.

The present-day complex is located in Makkah’s Umm Al-Joud district. The black silk curtain is usually ready two months before the beginning of Hajj, when the keeper of the Kaaba, the Bani Shaiba family, formally takes possession of it. 


Saudi VAT revenues hit SR46.7bn in a year: Finance minister

Updated 48 min 3 sec ago

Saudi VAT revenues hit SR46.7bn in a year: Finance minister

  • Al-Jadaan announced the figures during the first edition of the General Authority for Zakat and Tax
  • Said Kingdom was working to reach a consensual solution for tax challenges

RIYADH: Saudi VAT revenues have hit SR46.7 billion ($12.45 billion), a significant increase on estimates for the fiscal year, according to the Kingdom’s finance minister.

Mohammed Al-Jadaan announced the figures during the first edition of the General Authority for Zakat and Tax (GAZT) conference and exhibition.

“The commitment rate came at 90 percent, exceeding all the expectations of GAZT and some international organizations that ranged between 60 and 70 percent,” he said.

“The conference comes as the Kingdom is witnessing an economic and social transformation under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to achieve a diverse economy and sustainable growth in line with the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.

“The Kingdom’s fiscal policy aims to achieve a balance between the state’s financial and economic objectives. It seeks to maintain financial sustainability for the medium and long terms, which stimulates economic growth rates. This generates from our recognition that fiscal policies are one of the most important drivers of growth in the non-oil sector,” he added.

“The digital economy is rapidly advancing. We hope that modern technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchains will improve compliance with zakat and taxes, enrich the business sector, lower costs, promote tax transparency and develop e-commerce tax regulations.

“This conference will hopefully achieve a qualitative leap in the sectors of zakat and taxes by promoting cooperation and exchanging experiences.”

Al-Jadaan said that as the Kingdom prepared to host the next G20 summit, it was working to reach a consensual solution for tax challenges of the digital economy and contribute with other member states to stabilizing the global economy.