One of the most watched ceremonies in the Islamic world takes place this Saturday when the Kaaba is adorned with its new Kiswa.
In a change of tradition, the General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques will perform the annual event on the night of the new Islamic year of Muharram 1, 1444, or Saturday, July 30.
This marks “a departure from a decades-old practice of replacing it on the eve of Arafat, as per a recent royal decision,” according to the body’s president, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais.
The Kiswa, or Kaaba covering, is replaced annually in a centuries-old tradition.
For many decades, the Kiswa was replaced on Dhul Hijjah 9, when pilgrims depart for the plains of Arafat. This was usually when the Haram was empty, allowing for a smooth replacement.
The new Kiswa will remain in place until next year’s Hajj.
The task will be carried out by a team of 200 Saudi technicians working at the King Abdulaziz Complex for Manufacturing the Kaaba’s Kiswa.
The factory weaves, stitches, and prints using 47 pieces of cloth and thread by hand and machines. The process is carried out by the world’s largest computerized sewing machine, which measures 16 meters in length.
The fabric is stitched together in five sections and secured to the base with copper rings.
At the complex, approximately 670 kilograms of raw silk are dyed black.
The Kiswa is embroidered with 120 kilograms of 21-karat gold thread and 100 kilograms of silver thread with Quranic verses.
A new 850-kilogram Kiswa is estimated to cost SR25 million, or more than $6.5 million, making it the most expensive covering in the world.