Ahmed Shawky Othman Al Qasbaji is the grandson of the first Kaaba Kiswah maker in Egypt. The Kiswah used to be made annually at the hands of 10 people before the pilgrimage season.
The Kiswah was used for the entire year until it was replaced next year.
“My great-grandfather came to Cairo upon the request of Muhammad Ali Pasha to do the job,” Al Qasbaji said.
He added that “My great-grandfather Abdel Hamid was the first to make the Kiswah in Egypt. My grandfather Othman inherited the profession for three years in 1924-1926.”
He learned the workmanship for six years. When he was 12, he started to practice after gaining enough experience from observing.
“My son is named Shawky. I try to teach him how to sew. I send him to bring papers from the calligrapher – just like my father did with me when I was young,” Al Qasbaji added.
“We also made the veil of Princess Diana Spencer. Many newspapers reported that and I have some copies at the workshop. It was 22 metres and took us 3-5 months to make,” he explained.
Qasbaji said that they made a lot of work during the reign of Gamal Abdel Nasser, and also made rank slides for President Sadat’s army suits.
“In the era of President Hosni Mubarak, we sewed Quran verses on canvases hanged at the cabinet’s building. Most of the works I do are similar to the Kaaba Kiswah,” Qasbaji said.
“People in Saudi Arabia sometimes ask me to make a similar covering of the Kaaba door or a mini model. We also do different works inspired by the Islamic culture, including prayers sewed on belts and cloth. Every profession comes with its own problems. I just hope we can preserve the heritage,” he concluded.