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.


KSRelief continues aid efforts in 6 countries

KSRelief continues aid efforts in 6 countries
Updated 03 February 2023

KSRelief continues aid efforts in 6 countries

KSRelief continues aid efforts in 6 countries
  • In Yemen, the relief center delivered 70 tons and 299 kilograms of food, benefiting 1,533 individuals
  • KSRelief also provided 500 food parcels 3,541 to underprivileged people in Sudan

DUBAI: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) distributed 600 food packages to those affected by the floods in Afghanistan. 

In cooperation with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), KSRelief helped 3,600 people in-need in the war-torn country, state agency SPA reported. 

In Yemen, the relief center delivered 70 tons and 299 kilograms of food, benefiting 1,533 individuals in the country’s Taiz governorate. 

KSRelief also provided 500 food parcels 3,541 to underprivileged people in Sudan and 400 food packages to 2,800 people in Pakistan’s Sindh province. 

Similarly, Niger’s capital Niamey received a shipment from the organization containing 500 food packages, which benefited 4,924 people in-need. 

Meanwhile, the relief center gave 1,060 Syria and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon vouchers to purchase winter clothing as part of its Kanaf Project. 

People from host communities located in several Lebanese regions also benefited from the initiative.


Saudi-US trade ties can only go one way — and that is up, says US official 

Saudi-US trade ties can only go one way — and that is up, says US official 
Updated 15 min 43 sec ago

Saudi-US trade ties can only go one way — and that is up, says US official 

Saudi-US trade ties can only go one way — and that is up, says US official 
  • “What is most impressive is that we see Vision 2030 already being implemented. It is not just a vision; it is becoming a reality,” said Venkataraman

RIYADH: A senior US official remains optimistic that Saudi-American trade relations will flourish — in contrast to the dire predictions of many Western pundits that recent political disagreements might hinder the ongoing strategic and mutually beneficial 80-year relationship between the two nations.

US-Saudi economic relations can be taken to a “new level,” according to Arun Venkataraman, assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service.

“What we see here in Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a spectacular transformation that began as a result of Vision 2030.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman meets with US President Joe Biden. (File/AFP)

Venkataraman expressed his pleasure at being able to witness the changes in person. “And what is most impressive is that we see Vision 2030 already being implemented. So, it is not just a vision; it is becoming a reality and I am so pleased to be here and see it in person.”

The reason behind his visit and meetings in Saudi Arabia was explained in this way. “We hope through our meetings to build on the existing commercial work plan designed to strengthen our commercial partnership, which is so critical, and which underpins the strong strategic relationship between our two nations.”

Furthering commercial relations is at the top of his agenda in addition to deepening the already existing partnership. “We know there are many areas for collaboration in the business between our governments. The opportunities we have, and the way they complement our economies and our private sectors, are so vast that we want to make sure we take full advantage of them. Only by doing so can we be sure that the actions will benefit both our peoples.”

Assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, Arun Venkataraman. (Supplied)

Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, the Kingdom has gone through significant transformations on several fronts, including the empowering of women and diversifying the economy. Venkataraman called the transformations “game changers.”

“We see women taking their rightful place in professional society and in driving the work of both the private sector and the government. In meeting both American and Saudi companies today, I was really taken with the fact that both groups of companies emphasized how much they depend on women to fill the talent gaps. In addition, they are looking to women to be the future leaders in their companies in Saudi Arabia.

During his trip to Riyadh, Venkataraman held many meetings but what stood out the most for him was the Apple Academy at Princess Nourah University. “The first visible sign is noting how women have taken on a new role. In my visit to the Apple Academy, it was so inspiring to see the university supporting the young women’s skills development in a space that women have really not until now been present in, either in Saudi Arabia or the United States.”

He was impressed with the level of skill the young women have acquired. “To see those young women develop the skills and start creating completely new apps out of the blue, and to see the passion and the pride that they exhibited in doing so was striking. That’s the kind of spirit and passion that is at the core of Vision 2030.”

 

US President Joe Biden can be seen during a trip to the Kingdom. (File/AFP)

Venkataraman noted that there had been diversification of the economy in many sectors. “We see that in the digital sector. We see that in the move to the development of clean energy, moving away from dependence on fossil fuels. We also see tremendous advances in healthcare, not only in terms of pharmaceuticals, but really looking at smaller, more cutting-edge areas of healthcare, like research, development and clinical trials.”

“I think we also see something of particular interest in the entertainment space. We know that Saudi Arabia has a long history of being a cultural leader in the region in terms of disseminating culture. To see it now, however, as it expands that role and gives our partnership special opportunities for American cultural industries, is really exciting.”

US President Joe Biden is received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to the Kingdom. (File/AFP)

Commenting on the recent Bloomberg report that the Saudi economy had grown 8.7 percent in 2022, he said: “Saudi Arabia had a fantastic year last year with a growth rate that we could only wish the rest of the world had enjoyed, particularly as we emerged from COVID-19 in 2022. Saudi Arabia’s growth was historic.”

Arun Venkataraman was talking to Arab News assistant editor in chief Noor Nugali. (AN Photo)

According to Venkataraman, what that really shows is that “Vision 2030 is working. The intention to diversify the economy which the government is supporting is evident. It translates on the ground to what we are excited about from our perspective as the government pushes to diversify the economy.”

“We are proud that American companies have a role to play and can really greatly contribute to that diversification across a wide range of sectors. Such partnerships will further strengthen and underpin the strength of our bilateral relationship.”

US President Joe Biden is received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to the Kingdom. (File/AFP)

Venkataraman reiterated that relations between the two countries can only go one way — and that is up.

“I think we are fortunate to have such a strong broad-based foundation to our relationship. And what that means is that the commercial opportunities that exist are so vast that really, I see the opportunities as limitless. This is true whether we want to talk in terms of supporting Saudi Arabia through weapons sales, or whether we talk about supporting the movement away from fossil fuels by supporting clean energy development, or supporting the expanded role of tourism in the Saudi economy.”

“I think there are so many areas, both old and new, that will form the basis for the next stage of impactful, high-level economic activity between our two countries. I would say the future looks bright for our bilateral relations and I look forward to being a part of that relationship and facilitating it in the future.”

 

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AlUla: the perfect destination for Saudi cycling

AlUla: the perfect destination for Saudi cycling
Updated 02 February 2023

AlUla: the perfect destination for Saudi cycling

AlUla: the perfect destination for Saudi cycling
  • 2.1 category Union Cyclists event being organized across the region

ALULA: The third edition of the Saudi Tour cycling race, currently taking place and being broadcast on the Experience AlUla YouTube channel, shows AlUla’s ambition to become the cycling capital of the Kingdom.

AlUla is the perfect location to take Saudi cycling to the next level, according to the coaching staff behind the Saudi Cycling Federation team, speaking exclusively to Arab News on the sidelines of the 2.1 category Union Cyclists International event, which is taking place across the region from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. 

The Saudi Cycling Federation team has enjoyed a wonderful learning experience mixing in the peloton with UCI World Tour teams such as Team Jayco AlUla, Astana Qazaqstan Team, Bahrain Victorious, Cofidis, Movistar Team, Team DSM and UAE Team Emirates. 

Five-time Tour de France stage winner Dylan Groenewegen of Team Jayco AlUla, two-time Cycling Monument winner John Degenkolb, and Jonathan Milan of Cofidis have all demonstrated their abilities during the race, providing the Saudi team of Hassan Al-Jumah, Abdulaziz Hashim, Hani Al-Mhrhoon, Azzam Al-Abdulmunim, and Murthada Al-Shaghab with priceless riding experience. 

Salem Al-Salem, a vital member of the coaching team, told Arab News: “I am from Saudi Arabia, and since I was born in 1980, I have gone to cities all over the Kingdom, and AlUla looks incredible. It is a beautiful venue for hosting a world-class cycling event such as the Saudi Tour. 

This has been a real learning curve for the team and me, and I think that AlUla is the perfect place to move to the next level. It has everything necessary for a training camp, from the accommodation, food, and facilities to the right cycling conditions,” he added. 

The Royal Commission for AlUla recently signed a deal to become a second named sponsor of the Australian-based Team Jayco AlUla, the UCI World Tour team currently considered among the top three teams in the world. 

The partnership aims to put the destination of AlUla on the map for 1.7 billion road cycling spectators around the globe. The cyclists and teams in the Saudi Tour are finding out for themselves exactly what the destination has to offer. 

Al-Salem added: “I don’t think you can imagine how important this will be for developing cyclists from Saudi Arabia. AlUla would be perfect for training camps, national races, one and two-day events, and even international races. When I look at AlUla and the facilities and infrastructure here, I can’t see how we would want to train anywhere else from December to March each year.” 

As well as giving the riders top-level experience, the Saudi Tour has showcased the stunning landscapes, natural beauty and ancient history of AlUla, with the five stages passing the area’s extraordinary sights, including preserved tombs, historic dwellings and monuments, both man-made and natural, and geological formations that hold 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history. 

The first stage was a 180-km sprint leg that showcased both the evolving infrastructure and heritage of the region, starting at the redeveloped AlUla International Airport and finishing in the stunning landscape of Khaybar, featuring rare white volcanoes, lava fields, caves and wadis with freshwater springs supporting an abundance of plant and animal life. 

The second stage was a 184-km sprint from Winter Park through Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, which finished up at Shalal Sijlyat Rocks, an area of natural wonder and dramatic rock formations. Wednesday’s third stage was a 159.2-km journey from the Al-Manshiyah Train Station to Abu Rakah via short climbs. 

The architectural splendor of Maraya offered a unique backdrop for the start of the 163.4-km fourth stage today, which will finish at the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid. In contrast, Friday’s fifth stage will provide a fitting finale, a 142.9-km ride that takes the peloton through the streets of AlUla Old Town and Al-Jadidah’s Arts and Culture District, before finishing up at Maraya.

Saudi Arabia’s many sports fans can follow the third edition live on the Experience AlUla YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/experiencealula


Importance of boosting Gulf- French ties stressed

Importance of boosting Gulf- French ties stressed
Updated 02 February 2023

Importance of boosting Gulf- French ties stressed

Importance of boosting Gulf- French ties stressed

RIYADH: Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, stressed the importance of strengthening the Gulf-French strategic partnership, in a way that contributes to serving common interests.

He expressed these views during a meeting with the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna in Riyadh on Thursday.

The two sides discussed ways to strengthen the strategic partnership and Gulf-French relations and develop them in all fields, through the joint action plan for 2023-2028.

They also discussed several issues of common interest, in addition to following up on the latest regional and international developments.

The meeting was attended by the GCC assistant secretary for political affairs and negotiations, Dr. Abdulaziz Hamad Al-Owaisheg.


Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver

Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver
Updated 02 February 2023

Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver

Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver
  • Mexico City E Prix winner Jake Dennis impressed by nation’s evolution
  • Made world breakthrough at Diriyah, he says on ‘The Mayman Show’

DIRIYAH: Saudi Arabia’s Formula E races at Diriyah showcase the Kingdom’s ever-evolving sustainability efforts, according to top driver Jake Dennis from team Avalanche Andretti. 

Dennis, who appeared recently on “The Mayman Show,” made his debut at the first-ever Diriyah E Prix in 2018, which he regards as the ideal location to host electric car racing. 

 

 

“I think the cool thing with Formula E is we don’t just race countries just for the sake of it, you know. We don’t just choose a location to go, okay, we want to race there just because it’s cool. You know, every race we go to, there’s a reason. Saudi are obviously doing their best to try and promote sustainability,” he said. 

This season’s debut of the Gen3 car is an example of the ongoing focus on protecting the planet and is likely to be the future of motorsport. “These cars are super-fast now, you know, the acceleration is the same as Formula One cars … We reach some serious top speeds of close to 300 kph.” 

Dennis said that Saudi Arabia is shattering the stereotype of an oil-producing country. “So it’s great to see that, you know, even though, yes, they are known for oil and obviously bringing a lot from that. But it’s to try and promote sustainability. And I think a lot of countries need to lean more towards that as well.” 

 

 

The driving prodigy from Nuneaton, England, who started competing at the age of 8, said his fondest moment was at the City of Earth Diriyah for his first E Prix. “It was actually here, because this was where they used to hold the first race of the year and … it’s my first one.”  

Dennis said he was impressed with how Diriyah’s circuit has been developed over a short period and that it has now become a favorite with drivers. “I think the most standout thing of the circuit is just that it’s a night race, so it really makes these cars look alive. You know, it’s super fast through the mountain section.  

“So just the circuit has such good flow, such good rhythm. And for the driver, that’s what makes a great circuit. And today, obviously, under the floodlights, it’s a very special feeling. And yes, I mean, I enjoy coming back here each year.” 

 

 

Dennis said the most important moment for him as a driver was making his debut. “You’re in the garages at the moment and you drive to the grid and you’ve got that one lap to like, you know, get all your emotions out. 

“And you really think, okay, I need to fully focus for this and give it my all, and then you’re set on the grid waiting for the lights to come on. Okay, this is it. Like I’ve made it. I now need to perform and do well, what I’ve been made to do. 

 

 

“I think every racing driver has experienced that at least once in their life. And if their goal is always changing, then they’ll experience it a few times. But, you know, that main goal is just to make it as a professional, that that would be it. And something which, you know, I remember forever.” 

Dennis made his debut in the 2020–21 Formula E World Championship driving for the BMW Andretti team. His first victory came in the second race of the 2021 Valencia E Prix, held at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, and a second win in the first race at the Excel Arena in London.