The covering of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah was changed on Saturday morning to mark the Islamic New Year.
The kiswah was usually changed each year on the ninth or 10th day of Dhu Al Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar, but was moved to the first day of Muharram this year.
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Sudais, General President of the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, said last month that the change of date was based on a royal decision.
The new kiswah was installed by a team of about 200 specialised workers and officials, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The ornate black covering was made of about 850 kilograms of black raw silk, 120kg of gold wire and 100kg of silver wire, SPA said.
Replacing the kiswah is done separately for each side of the Kaaba, the square stone structure in the centre of the Grand Mosque that millions of pilgrims walk around as part of the Hajj rituals. The covering for each side is raised to the top of the Kaaba and unfurled over the old covering, which is then loosened and lowered.
After the old kiswah is removed it is cut into small pieces that are given out to selected people and organisations.
Since 1962, the kiswah has been produced at the Kiswah Al Kaaba factory in Makkah, owned and run by the Saudi Arabian government.
The factory takes a whole year to produce the covering, of which six to eight months is taken up by the embroidery.
The creation of a kiswah involves more than 200 specialist fabric workers. It comprises 47 pieces of natural silk, each 98 centimetres by 14 metres. The silk is given an inner lining of strong cotton to protect it.
Gold thread adorns the black silk, spelling out Quranic passages as well as phrases such as “no God but Allah”, and “glory to God” in the Al Thuluth style of calligraphy.
The kiswah is heavily perfumed with oud before being installed.