A new Kiswa was put on the Kaaba early on Sunday as pilgrims gathered in Arafat for the climax of the Haj. The Kiswa which is the black embroidered cloth is usually placed on the Kaaba on Arafat day.
The Kiswa is made at a special factory with over 100 workers involved in dyeing, electric weaving, printing, embroidery and then assembling the different parts of the Kiswa. The 14-meter-long Kiswa is embroidered with 120kg of gold and 25kg of silver threads. The factory uses a state-of-the-art embroidery machine with the capacity to doing 1,000 stitches per minute.
During the Prophet Muhammad’s time, the Kiswa was made of cloth from Yemen and it was changed and renewed twice a year – before Ramadan and then during Haj. Later during the reign of the Caliphs, providing the Kiswa was formally undertaken as part of state or ‘governmental’ obligation. At that time, Egypt whose people were famous for their intricate weaving of complex designs in all sorts of materials became responsible for supplying the Kiswa.
During the Ottoman Empire, great care was taken in selecting the best embroiders and weavers in Tinees, an Egyptian city famous for its facility and excellence in design. In those days, the Kiswa was made of black silk on which were various complex designs and embroidery. The Kiswa has remained black since then and it is still black today.
In the earliest days, the Kiswa was never removed from the Kaaba’ the new one was simply draped over the old. In the year 160 H, Al-Mahdi Al-Abbasi ordered that the Kiswa be limited to a single layer due to fears that over time the cloth might actually damage the Kaaba. From that time, the Kiswa was always one layer with used ones being bestowed as gifts in carefully cut and framed squares.
When King Abdulaziz entered Makkah in 1924, he accepted full and total responsibility for the Kaaba which included providing the Kiswa. On July 1, 1927, King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of a special factory to be exclusively devoted to the manufacture of the Kiswa in Ajyad district in Makkah.[Source: Arab News]