Sitarah for the door of the Ka‘bah; ordered by Sultan ‘Abdulmajid I on Collections Sphere from Khalili Collections
The curtain for the door of the Ka‘bah – known also as sitarah, burdah or burqu‘ – was by far the most elaborate part of the kiswah and was replaced annually. Since Mamluk times and until 1962, they were made in Egypt, and left Cairo with the kiswah accompanied by the caravan of pilgrims amidst great pomp and circumstance.
The design of this curtain is typical of those made at the Dar al-Kiswah in Cairo during the 19th century, and it continued to be used until the early 20th century. Curtains of this type were usually made in four sections which were embroidered and then sewn together, the heavy wire embroidery almost completely obscuring the seams. The silk fabric was backed with heavy canvas which helped support the weight of the wire, which on a heavily embroidered example like this, can weigh anything up to 60 kilograms. With its heavy use of embroidery, this curtain could have easily taken 20 or more embroiderers two months to complete.