Curtain for the Door of the Ka‘bah

Location: Cairo, Egypt; commissioned by Sultan Abdulmajid I

Materials: black silk, with coloured silk appliqués, heavily embroidered in silver and silver-gilt wire over cotton thread padding

Dimensions: 522 x 278cm

Accession Number: TXT 279


The sitarah (or curtain) for the door of the Ka‘bah – known also as the burdah or the burqu‘ – was by far the most elaborate part of the kiswah and was replaced annually. Since Mamluk times, sitarahs were made in Egypt, and left Cairo with the kiswah accompanied by the caravan of pilgrims amidst great pomp and circumstance. Today, they are made in a special workshop in Mecca.
The majority of the Ka‘bah door curtains made at Dar al-Kiswah in Cairo during the 19th century follow the same basic design in which calligraphic cartouches predominate and which is characterized by the series of stylized ‘palm trees’ either side of the door opening. However, because of the clever manipulation of the colour schemes and variations in the density of the embroidery, hardly any two look alike.
The inscriptions in the central turquoise panel state that this curtain – here referred to as a burdah – was made to the order of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid I, and presented to the Ka‘bah by Muhammad Sa‘id, the Governor of Egypt. For the other inscriptions see TXT 406.