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Kiswah (Arabic: كسوة الكعبة, kiswat al-ka'bah) is the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is draped annually on the 9th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, the day pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat during the Hajj. The term kiswah is Arabic for '', the cloth draped over a casket, and is a cognate of the Hebrew word kisui.
Every year, the old Kiswa is removed, cut into small pieces, and given to certain individuals, visiting foreign Muslim dignitaries and organizations. Some of them sell their share as souvenirs of the Hajj. In earlier times, Umar bin al-Khattab would cut it into pieces and distribute them among pilgrims who used them as shelter from the heat of Mecca.
The present cost of making the kiswa amounts to SAR 17,000,000 (~4,532,951.01 USD). The cover is 658m2 and is made of 670 kg of silk. The embroidery contains 150 kg of gold threads. It consists of 47 pieces of cloth and each piece is 14m long and 101 cm wide. The kiswa is wrapped around the Kaaba and fixed to its base with copper rings. The manually designed embroidery of the Quranic verses are slowly being aided by computers, thus increasing the speed of production.
The first time the Kaaba was clothed was during the rule of the Jurhum tribe during the visit of King Tuba of Himyar (now in present-day Yemen). Muhammad and the Muslims in Mecca did not participate in the draping of the Kaaba until the conquest of the city at 630 AD (7 AH), as the ruling tribe, Quraish, did not allow them to do so. When Mecca was taken by the Muslims, they decided to leave the Kiswah as it was until a woman lighting incense in the Kaaba accidentally set fire to the Kiswah. Muhammad then draped it with a white Yemeni cloth.
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