The British Museum here is hosting a demonstration of textile weaving by Hassan Alwany, the master weaver from Dar Al-Kiswa in Makkah, revealing the art of producing the richly embroidered textiles that are used to cover the Kaaba in Makkah.
This gold and silver embroidered black silk cloth is replaced annually during the Haj pilgrimage. This is the first time these skills have been demonstrated in London by a weaver from the Kiswa factory in Makkah.
Demonstrations of the textile weaving will run throughout the week. Entry to witness the art is free of charge.
The demonstration will take place alongside the mid-term holiday program themed on Arabian Journeys as part of the exhibition “Haj: Journey to the Heart of Islam” and features examples of these rich textiles as part of the displays.
The Kiswa is the black embroidered silk cloth that covers the Kaaba, the center to which all Muslims turn in prayer five times a day.
A new cloth is placed on the Kaaba and the old cloth removed every year on the ninth of Dul Hijjah, the day on which pilgrims stand in prayers on the plains of Arafat.
The old Kiswa is removed, cut into small pieces and gifted to visiting foreign Muslim dignitaries and organizations.
Making of the Kiswa is an interesting process and done in different stages. The best silk is imported from abroad.
The cloth is made in sections and each section is heavily embroidered in gold and silver thread with Qur’anic verses.
The total area of the Kaaba cloth is 658 sq. meters. It is made of 670 kg of pure silk, which has been dyed black and is covered with 120 kg of pure gold and 50 kg of pure silver thread, which is used for embroidering the Qur’anic verses.
The Kiswa used to be made in Egypt and brought to Makkah until 1927 when King Abdul Aziz ordered a factory to be set up in the holy city itself.
Master weaver Alwany, who has been performing the art of embroidery for 30 years, will present free demonstrations revealing the art of producing the richly embroidered Kaaba cover. Alwany along with special equipment and textiles will be creating models of the beautiful dress.
Alwany told Arab News that the section he is working on in the British Museum takes up to 25 days to complete. He added that the completion of the Kiswa requires a year of work by 300 men at the Dar Al-Kiswa.
Visitors to the British Museum were quite fascinated by Alwany’s skills and efficiency. A British woman watched Alwany embroider for 15 minutes and walked away completely startled by what she called “absolutely divine and exquisite” embroidery made from silk-plated gold.