How the manufacturing of the Kaaba cover, kiswa, changed over the centuries

Special How the manufacturing of the Kaaba cover, kiswa, changed over the centuries
The kiswa features the names and attributes of Allah: Ya Allah, Ya Mannan, Ya Dayyan, Subhanallahi Wa Bihamdihi Subhanallahil Azeem, and La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2022

How the manufacturing of the Kaaba cover, kiswa, changed over the centuries

How the manufacturing of the Kaaba cover, kiswa, changed over the centuries
  • Workers and technicians put in hours to immaculately create and embroider the fabric
  • The fabric undergoes vigorous physical tests to ensure its strength and durability

MAKKAH: Every year on the ninth or tenth day of Dhul Hijja, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar, the holy Kaaba is adorned with a new covering (kiswa) to mark the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.

Abdulhamid bin Said Al-Maliki, the deputy general president for affairs at the King Abdulaziz Complex for Manufacturing the Kaaba Kiswa, said the new kiswa would be draped over the Kaaba on the first day of Muharram instead of the ninth day of Dhul Hijja, marking the beginning of the new Islamic year.  

Making the kiswa is no easy feat. Skilled workers and technicians put in hours to precisely and immaculately create and embroider the kiswa to cover the Kaaba, which is a focal point for Muslims around the world throughout the year.

Arab News went on a tour of the King Abdulaziz Complex for Manufacturing the Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah to witness the fabrication of the kiswa firsthand.

The 100,000-square meter complex was previously known as the Kiswa Factory, which was established in 1928.  Its name was changed to the King Abdulaziz Complex for Manufacturing the Kaaba Kiswa in memory of King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, following a royal decree from King Salman in 2017.

Al-Maliki said the complex had witnessed many developments, such as moving from traditional manual work to an automated system.

The kiswa is made from scratch at the complex, starting by procuring silk and cotton threads that are tested in its laboratory for quality.




Laborers drape a new kiswa, the protective cover that engulfs the Kaaba, made from black silk and gold thread and embroidered with Qur’an verses, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Makkah. (AFP)

These threads are dyed and woven into the cloth with the help of high-end machines. After this process, the fabric undergoes vigorous physical tests to ensure its strength and durability to withstand all kinds of environmental factors throughout the year.

Ahmed Al-Sulami, a quality analyst at the laboratory, said: “We are testing the tensile (strength) and elongation and the effect of light on the dyes. The tensile strength must be more than a thousand-kilo force.”

The 658 square-meter kiswa is made from 670 kilos of black silk. It consists of 47 silk pieces stitched 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 cube features a different length and width,” said Salman Al-Luqman, who has been head of the textile department at the complex for around 40 years.

The kiswa features 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 bobbins of the required length. After that, the warping process takes place, in which the threads are collected and transferred to the weaving machine that works with the jacquard machine, which is the secret behind the texts woven on the black silk fabric.”

 

 

The automated weaving department also manufactures the Ihram, white cotton that covers the kiswa when it is lifted by around 3 meters from the bottom during the beginning of the Hajj season.

The kiswa then moves to the gilding and embroidery department, where the beautiful golden belts around the Kaaba and the curtain of the door are handmade with precision.

Sami Muzayyan, the department supervisor of kiswa gilding and embroidery, told Arab News that over 50 skilled artisans and embroiderers, aged between 23 and 60, hand embroidered verses from the Holy Qur’an and other prayers with 100 kilos of pure silver and 120 kilos of 21-karat gold-coated silver threads on 56 different pieces of silk.

Muzayyan said: “The wires are not made of pure gold because if so, it won’t be flexible enough. Rather it is made of gold-coated silver of German manufacture featuring a good level of flexibility to ease the procedure. The texts on the Kaaba are printed first according to the established manuscripts in Thuluth (a type of Islamic calligraphy) created by the previous Kaaba calligrapher Abdulrahim Amin Bukhari.”




An embroiderer sews with gold thread a verse from the Holy Qu’ran onto a replica of the kiswa. (AFP)

The Kaaba door is made of five connecting curtains featuring different Qur’anic verses and three complete surahs: Al-Fatiha, Al-Falaq and An Nas, and Quraysh.

In addition to the golden belt, the kiswa has 17 qandeels, lamp-shaped medallions with each featuring a name of Allah: Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum, Allahu Akbar, Ya Rahman Ya Rahim.

He said that the embroiderers used manasij, a traditional wooden hoop.

The white fabric is pulled between them before laying pieces of black silk on top. It is then tightened so that workers can do their embroidery. To give the embroidery texture, the letters are filled with cotton threads before being covered with gold and silver.

The kiswa is distinguished by three things: “Makkah Al-Mukarramah” embroidered in Arabic, the year in which it will be used, and the name of the reigning king.




Over 50 skilled artisans hand embroider verses from the Holy Qur’an and other prayers on the kiswa using pure silver and gold-coated silver threads on 56 different pieces of silk. (AFP)

It takes eight to 10 months to finish all the embroidery. Once completed, the silk pieces are collected, stitched 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 be used only 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 president of the complex Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais to develop programs, initiatives, and projects which will result in making the complex a cultural landmark and a point of attraction for all those coming to Makkah, so visitors from all over the world can enjoy a rich experience,” Al-Malki said.

The complex is working on using artificial intelligence to enrich the visitor experience through robots that will assist visitors in different languages by explaining the origin of the kiswa, the choice of Qur’anic verses, and calligraphy.

Al-Maliki also said that some initiatives would focus on women’s empowerment and training Saudi women to participate in the manufacture and embroidery of the kiswa in the future.

The complex will also soon launch a restoration center, where different pieces of the kiswa can be restored.

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Kiswa

It is the cover of the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Every year on the 9th or 10th day of Dhul Hijja, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar, the Kaaba is adorned with a new covering to mark the occasion of Eid Al-Adha. This year, however, authorities have decided that the new kiswa would be draped over the Kaaba on the first day of Muharram, marking the beginning of the new Islamic year. The 658 square-meter kiswa is made from 670 kilograms of black silk, consisting of 47 silk pieces stitched together by special machines.


History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up
Updated 26 November 2022

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up
  • Festival gave ancient landscapes a new lease of life

KHAYBAR: Past, present and future came together as the inaugural Ancient Kingdoms Festival drew to a close with a series of dramatic events showcasing three historic oases of the northwest — AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma — for a modern audience.

The festival, launched on Nov. 11, was the first of its kind to focus entirely on the sites, which were at the crossroads of culture in ancient times, and also centers of influence and wealth.

By focusing on a range of events, including cultural performances, workshops and sightseeing opportunities, the festival gave these ancient landscapes a new lease of life, with many of the activities expected to continue after the festival’s close.

A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.

FASTFACT

A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.

Visitors to Khaybar can still explore the mysterious prehistoric stone structures on foot, or by car or a 20-minute helicopter excursion, hovering over the old and new.

“We made this festival to reflect the stories behind all the ancient civilizations that lived around or in these three places,” Abdulrazzag Alanzi, a local storyteller and tour guide, told Arab News.

Alanzi used to visit his cousins in Khaybar as a child and still recalls hearing stories about the region going back centuries.

“I used to love reading a lot of fictional stories and also a lot of old stories, and when I heard about something that happened in this area many years ago, it always fascinated me. This is what pushed me into this line of work, tourism,” he said.

“AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma have a lot of historical stories and a lot of information that we need to show the world.”

Fahad Aljuhani, a storyteller who describes the area as the “greatest living museum,” also came to the area as a child to connect with his cousins — and to discover hidden treasures.

“I’m a ‘Rawi’ and ‘Rawi’ in English means a storyteller. Now we are on an island that floats on a sea of rock which is Khaybar. I used to come to Khaybar and visit my relatives, and they would tell us a story about the tombs and the oasis, and I didn’t have the chance to visit them until now,” he told Arab News.

Aljuhani said that 5 million years ago, hundreds of volcanic eruptions occurred simultaneously in the area.

“If you feel the rocks, they seem to generate heat from within, similar to those who choose to watch over the land today and tell its many-layered stories,” he said.

Tour guide Enass Al-Sherrif told Arab News that she is excited to see people, including those from around the Kingdom, taking the time to learn about their past.

Al-Sherrif describes her job as the best she could ever have.

“I am really proud and honored. And I want to show you and make you feel the experience, how we transformed this place into an amazing destination for others to come and visit us,” she said.

The festival and its extended program aims to shed light on the legends and legacies of ancient times in the Kingdom’s northwest region, allowing visitors to explore and learn about the “largest living museum in the world.”

It is two years since AlUla began reopening heritage sites to domestic and international tourists with its pioneering Winter at Tantora program, which lasts until March.

While the Ancient Kingdoms Festival wrapped up on a chilly day on Nov. 27, many of the visitor experiences will continue well beyond the festival period, with some available year-round.

“The northwest Arabian Peninsula is the jewel in the heritage crown of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a source of fascination for a global community of archaeologists and researchers. Their discoveries shed new light on the societies that endowed the region with such relics of the ancients, preserved in wonders of prehistoric geology, art, and historical architecture that reveal important truths,” the Royal Commission for AlUla, which hosted the event, said in a statement.

The commission plans to host the Ancient Kingdoms Festival annually. Further details are available on its website.

 


Little Riyadh opens to the public

The well-known danish juice bar and coffee shop Joe & the Juice opens in little Riyadh zone. (Supplied)
The well-known danish juice bar and coffee shop Joe & the Juice opens in little Riyadh zone. (Supplied)
Updated 26 November 2022

Little Riyadh opens to the public

The well-known danish juice bar and coffee shop Joe & the Juice opens in little Riyadh zone. (Supplied)
  • Little Riyadh is open daily from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m.

RIYADH: A new entertainment zone was added to Riyadh Season on Saturday with the opening of Little Riyadh, which offers visitors a range of activities, including live music, yoga sessions, and crafting workshops.

Situated next to The Groves in the Diplomatic Quarter, Little Riyadh also houses a number of dining options, including Parker’s, which bills itself as a “French restaurant with an American touch,” and the first Riyadh branch of the well-known Danish juice bar and coffee shop Joe & The Juice.

Little Riyadh is open daily from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m.

The third Riyadh Season now includes 15 entertainment zones: Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City, Winter Wonderland, Al-Murabaa, Sky Riyadh, Via Riyadh, Riyadh Zoo, Little Riyadh, The Groves, Imagination Park, Al-Suwaidi Park, Souq Al-Zel, Qariat Zaman, Fan Festival and Riyadh Front.

Throughout the season, the various zones will play host to concerts, exhibitions, firework displays, theatrical performances including Cirque du Soleil, and sporting events including the Riyadh Season Cup between Paris Saint-Germain and a combined team from the squads of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, and WWE shows.

 


Artist spotlight for Saudi Arabia’s ‘lost treasure’

Founder of Mono Gallery, Momen Al-Muslimani, explains the untitled work of Fahad Al-Hajailan. (Supplied by Mohammad Fattal)
Founder of Mono Gallery, Momen Al-Muslimani, explains the untitled work of Fahad Al-Hajailan. (Supplied by Mohammad Fattal)
Updated 26 November 2022

Artist spotlight for Saudi Arabia’s ‘lost treasure’

Founder of Mono Gallery, Momen Al-Muslimani, explains the untitled work of Fahad Al-Hajailan. (Supplied by Mohammad Fattal)
  • Four years after his death, galleries honor Fahad Al-Hajailan’s legacy

RIYADH: He was a pioneering Saudi contemporary artist who exhibited abroad in exhibitions and biennales, but whose name was rarely heard at home.

Now, four years after he died alone and surrounded by his beloved works of art, Fahad Al-Hajailan is at last getting the recognition he deserves.

Mono Gallery, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery, has revived his work with a “Al-Hajailan in the Mirror” exhibition commemorating the artist’s lost legacy.

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

Al-Hajailan, who died in 2018, was a founding member of the Riyadh Fine Art Group, a member of its advisory committee, and a pioneer in Saudi contemporary art.

He exhibited globally in shows and biennales in the US, China, the UK, Tunisia, France and Germany, but was all but unknown in the Kingdom, failing to gain the attention directed at headlining contemporary artists, such as Ahmed Mater, and Ayman Yossri.

With culture and creativity in the spotlight as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reforms, Mono Gallery decided to revive one of the country’s “lost treasures.”

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

Momen Al-Muslimani, the gallery’s founder, told Arab News that Al-Hajailan “was kept almost in the shade. No one knew how powerful he was at the time, 10 years ago.

“If someone is appreciative of an artist, first of all, they would buy his art at a general price, never trying to squeeze him or take advantage. There are a lot of art-lovers who are passionate collectors in the Kingdom. They should have run toward him 10 years ago, creating books, literature, (doing) interviews.”

FASTFACT

Four years after his death, galleries honor Fahad Al- Hajailan’s legacy.

According to Al-Muslimani, who was a close friend of Al-Hajailan, the artist never received the recognition he deserved.

Al-Hajailan spent most of his days in his studio, “painting away his emotions,” according to Al-Muslimani, who suggests the artist’s abstract style and poetic use of color reflect the mystery, sadness and sense of loneliness in his own life.

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

In 2018, Al-Hajailan died of a heart attack at age 61, in the middle of the night, alone and surrounded by his unappreciated works.

“Artists need someone else to feel on their behalf, to speak on their behalf, to express who they are on their behalf, because they forget themselves. They are completely inside the piece of artwork they’re creating,” Al-Muslimani said.

Instead of pursuing a degree in fine arts, which he could not afford at the time, Al-Hajailan spent much of his career as an art teacher, as well as curating cartoon graphics for Al-Jazeera and Al-Riyadh newspapers.

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

Only after discovering works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo did he realize that art did not have to be taught.

The true artist is never satisfied with his work, the gallery owner said, and this was the case with Al-Hajailan, who battled fatigue and hunger in a bid to create the ideal piece that would do his work justice.

“I’ve made this artwork, but I can do better. I can find more secrets in me,” Al-Hajailan would often say.

“The artist is most probably the only human on earth who does not have the choice to be an artist or not. He grew up having a pencil and a pen in his hand. He needs to draw; if he doesn’t draw, if he doesn’t paint, he would feel sick. And this is Fahad Al-Hajailan,” Al-Muslimani said.

Since his death, Al-Hajailan has been exhibited at the inaugural Diriyah Biennale and commemorated in Misk Art Institute’s Art Library book series.

Mono Gallery is presenting a timeline of his work, ranging from early pencil sketches in 1986 to the acrylic paintings of 2015.

“In Saudi contemporary art, we have a couple of pioneers — we can count them on by hand. One of them is Fahad Al-Hajailan. He is probably in the top three who people would never debate about. Everybody would speak with passion and love toward his art, his creativity. He is one of those treasures in the country.”

The exhibition runs until Nov. 28.

 


Who’s Who: Fawziah Al-Hoshan, general manager for Saudi Arabia at YOUGotaGift

Fawziah Al-Hoshan
Fawziah Al-Hoshan
Updated 26 November 2022

Who’s Who: Fawziah Al-Hoshan, general manager for Saudi Arabia at YOUGotaGift

Fawziah Al-Hoshan

Fawziah Al-Hoshan is the general manager for Saudi Arabia at YOUGotaGift, the Middle East’s leading marketplace for gift cards.

Her experience in human resources and rewards management spans over a decade.

In her career, Al-Hoshan has worked with multinational corporations and Saudi corporations. In addition to developing and driving employee engagement and well-being, Al-Hoshan bridges the gap between organizational direction and employee lifecycles and empowers people and institutions.

Al-Hoshan was responsible for launching YOUGotaGift in the Kingdom, selecting the team and fostering a performance-driven culture to enable the right talent to thrive. Using cross-functional team information and sales performance, she developed a go-to-market strategy for the company in the Kingdom and capitalized on the prevalent business opportunities and risks.

Before her current role, Al-Hoshan was an HR business partner at Olayan Group, an investment firm with an active global investment portfolio. She has also worked at PepsiCo as a total rewards manager. For localization and women empowerment, she received PepsiCo’s Chairman’s Award and PepsiCo Transformation Award.

Originally from Saudi Arabia, Al-Hoshan graduated from King Saud University with a business administration and management degree.

Al-Hoshan seeks to grow the YOUGotaGift team in Saudi Arabia and build new standards for convenience for consumers and businesses.

Last month, YOUGotaGift launched the HappyYou multi-brand eGift Card, a super gift card redeemable at all their partner brands in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt.

 


Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations

Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations
Updated 14 min 51 sec ago

Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations

Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations
  • Investment opportunities are many thanks to similar development priorities, Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani tells Arab News
  • He says the crown prince’s recent visit will contribute to accelerated steps for enhancement of bilateral and trade relations

BANGKOK: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Bangkok last week has opened not only a new chapter in Saudi-Thai ties but also new horizons in which officials and the people see a promising future for both kingdoms.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand were officially restored in January this year, during Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s trip to Riyadh, when the two countries agreed to appoint ambassadors for the first time in over three decades.

The crown prince arrived in Bangkok as a guest of honor at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit hosted by Thailand on Nov. 18-19 and became the first Saudi official to make such a trip.

“It was the first visit at the level of the Kingdom’s leadership since the establishment of relations between the two countries in 1957,” Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Thailand, told Arab News.

In welcome messages, many Thais wrote it was an “honor” for them to see the Saudi crown prince in their country. (SPA)

“It will move the relations of the two countries to broader horizons and a prosperous and promising future.

“It will also contribute to accelerating steps that will enhance bilateral, economic and trade relations between the two countries by exploring potential investment opportunities in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the development priorities of Thailand.”

The crown prince’s meetings with the Thai leadership have yielded numerous memorandums on energy, investment, tourism, anticorruption efforts and the normalization of diplomatic relations.

When the crown prince arrived in Bangkok, he was officially received by the country’s top leadership and royal family and unofficially by many others, especially from the younger generation, who took to social media to welcome him and set up online fan clubs.

In welcome messages, many Thais wrote it was an “honor” for them to see the Saudi crown prince in their country.

“I think Thai people are looking and are expecting more cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Thailand, told Arab News. (Supplied)

Photos and videos from the visit went viral and made the rounds with captions such as “Warm welcome, Prince,” “This is what people in the country (Thailand) want,” “Happy: Thai-Saudi relations are very close after 32 years,” “Long live MBS.”

“The relations now seem to be on the right track and will grow stronger and more comprehensive in the coming period,” Al-Suhaibani told Arab News.

“The Saudi embassy will focus on implementing and following up on the agreements and memoranda of understanding that were signed during this historic visit.”

Tanee Sangrat, director-general of information at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and soon-to-be Thailand’s ambassador to the US, told Arab News that the visit was “closely watched and followed by the Thai people in Thailand and around the world.”

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s trip to Riyadh in January. (Shutterstock)

He said: “We look to Saudi Arabia as a country that has great potential. The crown prince and prime minister is very widely well respected by our people.

“I think Thai people are looking and are expecting more cooperation with Saudi Arabia.”

With the restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia, Thailand has found not only a new powerful partner in navigating volatile energy markets and energy transition, but also, as many have said, a “gateway” to the Middle East, where Thailand’s presence is not very strong.
 

 

The restored relationship would give not only Thai exporters but also investors more access to opportunities in the Gulf and beyond.

“This is a big, big issue for Thailand. Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in the Middle East,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Bangkok-based Institute of Security and International Studies, told Arab News.

“That is a gateway for Thailand to re-engage and re-enter Middle East markets. Without the Saudi Arabia relationship, a lot of doors were closed. Now, more doors will be opened.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Bangkok last week. (Supplied)

Suppalerk Aramkitphotha, a business development professional, saw the crown prince’s visit as a “great opportunity.”

“We are very glad that we have this opportunity,” he said, citing the business prospects between Thailand and the Middle East that would now be facilitated.

Jirayut Srupsrisopa, the founder of the first Thai fintech startup to notch up a valuation of more than $1 billion, said he was glad that the Saudi crown prince visited Thailand and new bridges were built.

“Now we can do so much more between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. We can work with Saudis for the future of energy, the future of green hydrogen or future growth in other aspects like the digital economy,” he told Arab News, adding that there would also be opportunities such as medical tourism.

Thailand, where healthcare services are well developed, already has agreements with countries such as Kuwait and Qatar for receiving patients. A deal with Saudi Arabia is likely to be a part of the two countries’ relations going forward.

“We are famous for medical tourism,” Jirayut said. “Everyone can come here, have a nice holiday, nice beach, nice mountains, nice hotels, nice services. And they can get their teeth done. They can recover. They can have a health checkup here at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.”

But there is much more to the renewed ties than business opportunities.

Referring to the potential role that culture can play in cementing the re-established Saudi-Thai relationship, Ambassador Al-Suhaibani said: “There are many similarities between the two countries, particularly in hospitality, generosity, friendliness and, most importantly the richness of culture.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Thai Prime Minister witness the exchange of several MoU between Saudi Arabia and Thailand. (Supplied)

“This will encourage us to strengthen relationships and communication between our people, as well as to promote constructive dialogue in many aspects of social, cultural and religious (life).”

This kind of exchange is what Thais have waited for a long time.

Voralak Tulaphorn, a marketing professional, said a Saudi presence is something that was missing from the multicultural landscape of Thailand for a long time.

“Saudi Arabia and (Thailand) actually have rich cultures, and with rich cultures it would be nice to have exchanges in everything from food and nature to fashion and handicrafts.”

For her, what holds the greatest promise as a means of bringing Thais and Saudis together is an appreciation of each other’s cuisines. Food is a good way to win hearts and spread cultural influence.

“I think people love Thai street food,” Voralak told Arab News, adding that she hoped that soon Saudi restaurants would start emerging in Bangkok. “We would love to taste Saudi Arabian food too.”