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The Kaaba and the Kiswah

In Islam, Hajj is an annual pilgrimage made to the Kaaba, the ‘House of God’ in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Kaaba is covered in a Kiswah — a black silk cloth embroidered in gold.

Find out more about the Kaaba & the art of the Kiswah…

Muslims do not worship the Kaaba, but it is Islam’s most sacred site because it represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of Allah in Islam. Muslims around the world face toward the Kaaba during their five daily prayers.

Muslims believe the Kaaba was built by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) & Ismail as a house of monotheistic worship thousands of years ago. Over the years the Kaaba was reconstructed & attracted different kinds of pilgrims including early Christians who lived in the Arabian Peninsula.

Meaning cube in Arabic, the Kaaba is a square building unlike almost any other religious structure. It is fifteen meters tall and ten and a half meters on each side; its corners roughly align with the cardinal directions.

The Kiswah is the cloth that covers the Kaaba. The term Kiswah means ‘robe’ and is also known as the ‘Ghilaf’. Hanging the Kiswah, a huge piece of black silk embroidered with gold patterns, over the Kaaba symbolises the start of the Hajj pilgrimage season.

The creation of a new Kiswah every year involves more than 200 specialist fabric workers. The outer layer of the Kiswah is made of 47 pieces of silk imported from Italy, each 98 centimetres by 14 metres. The inside of the Kiswah is a cotton lining which helps preserve the silk.

Approximately 120kg of silver & gold threads that come from Germany are used to emboss the Quranic verses on the Kiswah. Gold thread adorns the black silk, spelling out Quranic passages as well as phrases such as “no God but Allah", and "glory to God"

The Kiswah has a belt section that wraps round to hold it in place. It is 46 metres long and 95cm wide, made from 16 pieces and also embroidered with Quranic verses. One of the pieces on the belt features a dedication naming the date the Kiswah was made.

Specialist embroiders & artisans create the embroidery of the belt of the Kiswa Al Ka'aba with gold thread. 114 people work on this step for the 16 parts of the belt. According to current stats, it costs around £3.4m to make the Kiswah

The Kiswah includes the curtain of the Kaaba door. The embroidered curtain was put on the Kaaba gate for the first time in 1300-1396 (819 in the Hijri calendar). The door of the Kaaba is now made of solid gold; it was added in 1982.