The covering of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah was changed on Tuesday night ahead of the Islamic New Year.
The Islamic New Year will fall on Wednesday, July 19, this year, marking the beginning of Muharram.
The kiswah was usually changed each year on the ninth or 10th day of Dhu Al Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar, but was moved to the first day of Muharram last year.
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Sudais, General President of the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, had said that the change was based on a royal decision.
Replacing the kiswah is done separately for each side of the Kaaba, the square stone structure at the centre of the Grand Mosque that millions of pilgrims walk around as part of Hajj rituals.
The covering for each side is raised to the top of the Kaaba and unfurled over the old covering, which is then loosened and lowered.
A specialist team is supervising the process, which involves removing the golden rings fastening the kiswa to the Kaaba, clothing the holy site in its new cover and finally removing the old cover by letting it drop underneath the new one.
Around 200 skilled craftspeople worked on producing the 56 pieces of hand-embroidered kiswah, said the Saudi Press Agency, and each piece took between 60 to 120 days to embroider.
It comprises 47 pieces of natural silk, each 98cm by 14 metres. The silk is given an inner lining of strong cotton to protect it.
A total of 120kg of gold thread and 100kg of silver were used in the process.
After the old kiswah is removed, it is cut into small pieces that are given out to selected people and organisations.
Since 1962, the kiswah has been produced at the Kiswah Al Kaaba factory in Makkah, owned and run by the Saudi government.
Gold thread adorns the black silk, spelling out Quranic passages, as well as phrases such as “no God but Allah” and “glory to God” in Al Thuluth style of calligraphy.
The kiswah is heavily perfumed with oud before being installed.