In preparation for Hajj this year, authorities in Makkah on Wednesday raised the Kaaba garment, or kiswah, by three metres, and covered the raised part with a two-metre-wide white cotton cloth on all four sides, an annual custom.
The kiswah is raised to mark the beginning of the month of the Hajj each year and is carried out as a precautionary measure to protect the kiswah because pilgrims who touch or hold on to it during tawaf (circumambulation of the Kaaba) can damage the fine material in the process.
The kiswah, which is black, is made from about 670 kilograms of raw silk with verses from the Quran woven in gold-plated thread. The verses are woven using 120kg of gold and 100kg of silver threads.
The general president for the Holy Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, Dr Abdulrahman Al Sudais, was accompanied by a team of more than 50 people from the King Abdulaziz Complex for the Kaaba to change the lower part of the building's covering.
The process of changing the entire kiswah will take place on the second day of Hajj, estimated to be on July 18, under the supervision of Mr Al Sudais.
The kiswah is replaced every year during Hajj, after the pilgrims go to Mount Arafat.
Hajj this year is limited to 60,000 vaccinated pilgrims who were shortlisted and confirmed through an online process according to the Hajj and Umrah ministry. This year, only Saudi residents and citizens will perform the pilgrimage.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on Sunday that everyone selected to perform Hajj this year must have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Only about 1,000 pilgrims were allowed to perform Hajj last year because of the coronavirus pandemic and crowd control restrictions put in place by Saudi Arabia, which usually hosts more than two million people during the pilgrimage.