The drape that engulfs the Kaaba is formally called Kiswa and is changed every year at the culmination of the annual hajj, or pilgrimage, when the hajjis have leftMecca to go to Arafat, the starting point of their hajj journey.
Kiswa has been made in this special factory in the city of Mecca for more than 30 years. Made of pure silk, the gold- and silver-plated threads embroider it with Arabic calligraphy from verses of the Koran and special Islamic features.
At 14 meters high and 47 meters wide, and with a total weight of about 650 kilos, the drape is worth around $5.3 million. Before being made in Saudi Arabia it was given as a gift from Egypt and India.
The Kiswa is comprised of five pieces, four to cover the sides of the Kaaba and the fifth piece to cover the door high up on one side, which opens into a bare room containing three pillars.
The Mecca’s Kiswa factory employs scores of Saudis.
"I was pursuing calligraphy sewing as a hobby and fortunately am here and doing this work," Khaled added while meticulously pushing the needle into the silk.
"Each of us is given a piece of silk cloth and a verse to sew. We first sew the words and shapes in cotton and then we use the gold or silver plated thread to sew over it," he explained.
His colleague Othman, working sitting opposite him, said: “The work one sees here now is for next year. The work here goes on non-stop. Usually it takes us 10 months to finish it here in our sections.”
Othman who has worked in the factory for the past eight years, said: “The old drape is returned here, cleaned and then cut into pieces and given to Muslim states and officials.”
The interior of the Kaaba is also draped with embroidered Islamic features made from silk and made here.
"The drape inside the Kaaba is green, like the color of Saudi Arabian flag," said Mohammad, who explained the traditional way that the cloth was woven before the advent of computer-linked weaving machines in the other hall of the factory.
"In the old days each of the hand operated machines would have woven around half of meter of the black silk cloth for the exterior of the Kaaba," he added.
Mohammad, passionate about his work, said: “I was drawn to it since the Kaaba is so sacred and working with it is working in the path of Allah.”
Kiswa is made of pure silk which is dyed black and stitched with gold and silver threads at a cost of SR20 million (US$5 million).
The Kaaba is dressed twice every year during the months of Shaaban (the month before Ramadhan) and Dhul Hijja, the month of pilgrimage. It is also washed twice every year from inside by Zamzam water and perfumed with Iranian rose water.
The dress is 658 square meters in size and consists of 47 pieces each 14 meters long and 95 centimeters wide, is made with 670 kilograms of silk and 150 kg of gold and silver used to engrave Quranic verses on the cloth.
It also includes a special dress for the Kaaba door known as the burqa (face cover) that is 6.5 meters long and 3 meters wide with verses of Quran engraved on it.
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.
All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
More and more I feel creativity is a commitment to what you love. When the demons of doubt take over or whenever the stress of life and work bog you down and you feel like turning in, it’s the moment you refuse to give it up that’s when creativity happens. That commitment is akin to going to the gym or similar: you ache and you hate it and you want to thrown in the towel…but you head over there anyway and lift weights or run that last mile. It’s the same in all creative pursuits. It’s a privilege to do what you love, even in the little moments we have, so to cherish it is to commit to it. For it’s in the sticking with it, and with all the energies and time invested, you do get so much back. And it does bring joy, even if it’s fleeting.
Beautiful book covers created by Dana Tanamachi for Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Books for children. Every cover was created in a larger size with chalk then photographed and reproduced in a book format. If you want the books: Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz or Pippi Longstocking you can buy them on Amazon.