Visitors to the 23rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) have been given the opportunity to view the oldest known Kaaba cover to have ever been on public display. Known as a Kiswah, this artistically embroidered fabric that ceremonially covers the Kaaba before the holy season of Hajj was sent to Mecca by the most famous of the Ottoman Sultans, Suleiman the Magnificent nearly 500 years ago.
This magnificent exhibit was brought to ADIBF 2013 by specialist Austrian firm INLIBRIS who are dedicated to the preservation of ancient manuscripts and exhibits.
The Kiswah of the Kaaba, which still maintains its beautiful condition after 470 years, is a testament to the very best of Islamic Art. It is seen as the highest honour bestowed on any Muslim head of state to provide the cover for the Kaaba which is the focal point of all Muslim prayer for more than 1400 years.
Commenting on their exhibiting of the Kiswa at ADIBF, Mr. Hugo Wetscherek, owner of INLIBRIS said: "Our Kiswah is the same in every iconographic detail with a counterpart that can be found at the famous Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Both the name of Sultan Suleiman and the year 950 in the Islamic Calendar are stated in the splendid calligraphy, and the date is confirmed by carbon dating technology.
"The fact that both the name of the Sultan and the date were included in the embroidery makes them a historical document. No earlier example of a Kiswah is recorded and we believe that no Kiswah pre-dating ours is known at all."
Sultan Suleiman I, or the Magnificent, was one of the most prominent patrons of the Islamic arts and literature at the prime of the Ottoman Empire. He commissioned the best weavers in Turkey at the time to weave this Kiswah. At the time, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent wanted this Kiswah to be a pride for all Muslims and a testament to the golden age of the Ottoman Empire for all the Muslims who undertake a pilgrimage to the Kaaba from all over the world.
ADIBF is the only place where this very rare exhibit has so far been displayed to the public and it proved a highly popular attraction for the tens of thousands of visitors to the Book Fair. Its presence has reinforced the growing significance of Abu Dhabi as one of the most sought after destinations for Islamic antiquities and arts and a rapidly developing international centre for culture.
ADIBF 2013 has been organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).