Lot 124
  • 124

Dar al-Kiswah, the Egyptian Mahmal, the Hajj, Makkah and Madinah.

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
73,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • A large and extensive collection of original embroidery templates and artwork from the workshops of Dar al-Kiswah in Cairo, together with manuscript ledgers, photographs and rare books relating to the Mahmal, the Hajj, Makkah and Madinah. [late nineteenth to late twentieth century]

  • paper

1. Sixteen templates and watercolour designs, including embroidery stencils for the Kiswah and the bag for the Ka'bah keys, from the reigns of Sultan Hussein Kamel of Egypt (1914-1917), Fuad I (1917-1922) and Farouk I (1922-1952), many designs officially stamped or sealed and on official paper (various sizes from 353 x 249mm. to 328 x 1007mm.), some tears and stains
2. Album of 34 photographs by royal court photographer Riad Chehata showing the fine embroidery of Dar al-Kiswah, exhibited at the Agricultural Industrial Exhibition of 1931, oblong folio (310 x 430mm.), silver prints, mounted on card, original grey half cloth, over faux crocodile skin, upper cover lettered in Arabic in gilt, some guards torn, binding rubbed; with a medal awarded to Dar al-Kiswah at the 1931 exhibition
3. Four ledgers or log books from Dar al-Kiswah, recording in manuscript ink or pencil, in Arabic, the materials used in manufacture (cotton, silks, silver and gold thread), accessories for the camels, tents, iron chains and tools, plus details of work carried out by the artisans and timekeeping (c.1920s)
4. Photographs of the artisans of Dar al-Kiswah (1920s-1930s), 27 passport photographs mounted on card (357 x 250mm.), nearly all identified in ink on the mount, many being members of the Nada family, including Hag Kamel Ameen Nada who trained young Saudi artisans in the craft and who oversaw the 1975 and 1976 Kiswahs made in Saudi Arabia, some gaps where photographs were previously mounted
5. Photograph of Al Zohdi, the renowned calligrapher of Makkah and Madinah, mounted on card (290 x 230mm.), with an original stencil embroidery template of Al Zohdi's signature
6. Two templates relating to the granting of titles, (700 x 850mm. and 570 x 400mm.)
7. Two albums of photographs relating to the Mahmal (15 photographs) and Dar al-Kiswah (29 photographs); loosely inserted in each album is a list of the photographs
8. Collection of tools and items from the workshops of Dar al-Kiswah, including a cutting tool, weaving instruments, samples of cloth, rolls of silver thread, 3 tassels, a cloth bag (with the arms of the Egyptian government stamped in black) and a calligraphic pen
9. Two framed photographs of embroidered work produced by Dar al-Kiswah, including one of the Kiswah curtain (c.1931)
10. Two Certificates of Gold medals awarded to Dar al-Kiswah at International Exhibitions: the first in Liège in 1930 (435 x 495mm.), the second in Paris in 1937 (380 x 355mm.); each mounted on card, some slight wear and stains to both
11. Printed Books: Sourdel-Tomine, J. Clefs et Serrures de la Ka'ba, notes d'Épigraphie Arabe. Paris, 1971, photographic illustrations of locks and keys of the Ka'bah at Makkah from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul--Ahmed Youssef. Al Mahmal wal Hajj. Cairo, 1937, vol.1 (all published), inscribed by the author to the explorer and scholar Prince Youssef Kamal--Helmy, I. Kiswat Al Ka'bah Al Musharrafah, wa founoun Al Hajj. Cairo, 1991, modern cloth, title slightly worn--Abdel Mo'ty, H. Al 'Elaqat Al Masreyah Al Hegazieh fi Al Qarn Al Thamen 'Ashr. Cairo, 1999--Al Halwani, S.B. Al 'Elaqat bayna Masr wal Hegaz wa Najd, fi Al Qarn Al Tase' Ashr [Relations between Egypt and the Hegaz and Najd in the 19th century], first edition--Ahmed, Y. Al Khat Al Kufi. Cairo, 1934, first edition, inscribed by the author; [bound with:] Ibid. Al Khat Al Kufi. Cairo, 1933, first edition, 2 works bound in one; all 8vo, various bindings
12. Collection of 35 printed newspapers, periodicals and magazines, with articles on the Kiswah and Mahmal, various formats, (1880 to 2010)


1. Two original photographs by Muhammad Sa'oudi: 1. Pilgrim's hat on a tripod, of a type worn by Yemeni pilgrims (85 x 140mm.); 2. Pilgrims on the road between Jeddah and Makkah (75 x 80mm.)
2. Miniature Qur'an, [Bulak, 1343 AH (1923 AD)], (24 x 16mm.), original wrappers, in original engraved silver box, slight oxidisation to box, one corner bumped
3. Islamic coins, a collection of 6 coins (c.1927-c.1956), with printed list in Arabic describing each coin, explaining the numismatic evolution during this period and witnessing the formation of the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
4. Printed books: Al Deshnawi, A.I.M. Al Hajj wal Ziyarat [The Hajj and the visit]. [no date], 8vo, Arabic text, original wrappers, some stains, wrappers slightly worn--Hamzah, A., ed. Al Hajj. Cairo, 1948, Arabic text, 8vo, photographic and other illustrations, modern cloth--Hattah, M.K. Labeik Allahoma Labeik. Kitab Al Sha'b, no 81. Cairo, 1960, 8vo, modern cloth--Moustafa, A.W. Al Risalat Al Faroukiyah Al Khaledah fi manasik al Hajj wa Al 'Omrah, tibk 'Amal Al Rasoul Salah Allah 'Alayhi wa Salam fi higat al wida'. Cairo, 1948, second edition, 8vo, original wrappers, minor stains to wrappers
5. Photographic postcards: album of 19 photographic postcards (105 x 130mm.) of Makkah and Madinah, each numbered; together with a box of 17 vintage and 3 modern postcards of Makkah, Madinah and the Egyptian Mahmal
6. Prints and documents: (i) Donation certificate for the restoration of the well of Zubeida (AH1345/1927AD, 420 x 269mm.), printed in red and black, stamped with the seals of the president and members of the Association of the Zubeida well. (ii) Certificate of completion of the Hajj rituals, pictorial coloured lithograph (520 x 380mm.), depicting the Ka'bah and the Prophet's Mosque, backed on linen and mounted on card, heavily worn with loss. (iii) 'La marche de la Caravane du Grand Caire pour la Mecque,' engraved print (135 x 340mm.), from P. Lucas's Voyage... dans la Grèce, l'Asie Mineure, la Macedoine et l'Afrique (Amsterdam, 1714). (iv) 'Tableau du Mouvement du Pélerinage de l'année 1891 depuis l'ouverture du Campement,' purple ink on paper (135 x 340mm.), paper watermarked 'Gouvernement Egyptien.' (v) Printed invitation to the Mahmal Procession, June 1922, sealed by the vice governor of Egypt, with envelope. (vi) Large book of stamps, issued by the Arab government of the Hejaz in 1924 on the order of Al Sherif 'Ali Al Hussein, King of the Arabian Hejaz, some stamps missing or gummed together
7. A group of 11 photographs and illustrations of the Mahmal, officials and pilgrims and other documents, including a photograph of 'The keeper of the Prophet's Mosque at Madinah' by Sadiq Bey (c.1881); others by various photographers showing the Mahmal procession in Cairo, officials of the Mahmal, Egyptian pilgrims returning from Makkah by boat, engraved map showing pilgrim routes and 2 facsimiles of documents announcing the first documentary film on the Egyptian Mahmal (1923) and a documentary film 'La Mecque' (1934)

Catalogue Note

An important and fascinating collection of original embroidery designs, photographs and literature on the Hajj and Kiswah. The Kiswah (curtain) is the term used for the hanging made for the Ka'bah, which was decorated with verses from the Qur'an. Although in the early period of Islam, presentations of cloths were often made by tribal chiefs, it rapidly became a state responsibility, which it remains. At various times in the past this has been made both in Syria and in Egypt, and from the Sultan in Constantinople (largely dependent on whose political influence was greatest at the time). It was only in Ottoman times that transport of the Mahmal was restricted to the Cairo and Damascus caravans and when Muhammad Ali took over control of Egypt in 1805, the manufacture of the Kiswah moved to Cairo and in 1818 the institution of Dar al-Kiswah was established. The Egyptian-made Kiswah was transported to Makkah in the procession for Hajj pilgrimage made with the Mahmal from Cairo. Examples of the embroidered cloths, which were generally cut up for sale for presentation, which remains the tradition to this day, have at various times been sold at auction. These embroidered cloths, which were made right up until 1961 in Egypt, and continue to be made today in Saudi Arabia, were designed and made at the Dar al-Kiswah, and paper calligraphic designs of holy texts were made and pricked in the normal manner of embroidery patterns. Historically the cloth was changed on 10th Dhu-al-Hijja (the month of the pilgrimage). It consists of 14 pieces of silk cloth, each piece 14 metres long and 101 centimetres wide, and that covering the door to the Ka'ba is decorated with verses from the Qur'an (see Ibrahim Hilmy. Kiswat al-Ka'bat al-musharrifa wa founoun al-Hajj, Cairo, 1994).