For centuries, the changing of the Kiswa, the sacred cloth that drapes the Kaaba in Makkah, has been a revered tradition carried out solely by men. But this year, a historic first unfolded.

Saudi women joined the ranks of the artisans and technicians, not only participating in the ceremony itself, but also playing a vital role in crafting the magnificent cloth.

Saudi women take a step forward

This inclusion marks a significant step forward for women in Saudi Arabia. The Kiswa, adorned with intricate gold and silver embroidery, is a symbol of holiness and a centerpiece of the Hajj pilgrimage. Being involved in its creation and replacement elevates the role of women within this sacred tradition.

The process itself is a marvel of meticulous planning and craftsmanship. A team of 159 skilled artisans, now including women, meticulously handcraft the Kiswa using a staggering amount of materials – 120kg of gold thread, 100kg of silver thread, and 1,000kg of silk. Each piece takes between 60 to 120 days to complete, ensuring the intricate details and symbolic motifs are flawlessly produced.

What is a Kiswa and how is it made?

The installation is equally intricate. The massive Kiswa, weighing 1,350 kilograms, is carefully lifted section by section onto the Kaaba. The meticulous choreography involves removing the old Kiswa while the new one is transported,ensuring a seamless transition.

Previously, the Kiswa changing ceremony coincided with the Hajj pilgrimage. However, a recent change allows the ceremony to take place on the first day of the Islamic New Year. This shift not only streamlines the process but also allows the Kiswa to be pristine for the influx of pilgrims during Hajj.

The inclusion of women in this historic tradition is a powerful symbol of progress. It signifies a future where women play a more prominent role in preserving and celebrating Islamic heritage. This is a momentous occasion, not just for the beauty of the Kiswa itself, but for the message of inclusivity it conveys.

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