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KISWAH - SACRED COVER OF THE KAABA

Early, monthly, daily, hourly, worshippers from around the world meet at the heart of Islam, the Kaaba…

Positioned inside ­Mecca’s Grand Mosque, the ­Kaaba is Bait Allah, or the House of God, and represents the ­qiblah, the direction that Muslims face to perform their five-times-daily prayers. One of the greatest venerations for the Kaaba is the amount of care, respect, art and dedication put into the very fabric that covers it, the sacred kiswah.

The result of a great labour of love, the kiswah’s story and history is as deep and rich as the embroidery along its pure silk cover. Dyed black and padded with white silk fabric, it weighs more than 650 kilograms.

Quranic verses are beautifully and skilfully embroidered in different calligraphic forms by more than 200 talented artisans in threads of pure gold and silver. The 14-­metre-long kiswah is embroidered with 120kg of gold and 25kg of silver threads.

Since the Kaaba was first built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, the kiswah had passed through many stages, from different colours – such as white, green, red, a combination of colours and black – to different types of cloth, designs and forms.

Today it’s known and recognised for its beautifully woven piece of the finest black silk in the jacquard technique. The colour and design of the outer kiswah hasn’t changed for many centuries. In early Islamic times, however, the Kaaba was covered with fine multicoloured textiles, but from the late sixth century Hijri (12th century AD), a black drape was adopted. The custom of incorporating woven, religious inscriptions into the cloth can be traced back to the eighth century Hijri (14th century AD). Its characteristic zigzag design contains religious quotes executed in majestic Jali Thuluth script. Traditionally, they combine praise and invocations to ­Allah with the Islamic profession of faith (the Shahada): “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the ­Messenger of Allah”.

Important historic figures and whoever was in control at the time left their own mark and legacy on the kiswah, making this sacred cloth a story of the religious, social, economic and cultural factors that defined a particular time in history.

08.03.2018