Curtain for Door of the Ka‘bah

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

540 x 275cm

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.

The design of this sitarah 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. Sitarahs 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.