An important silk and metal thread embroidered Curtain (kiswah) Ka'aba with an Ottoman Tughra Egypt, circa 1880
The inscriptions read (from top to bottom):
Qur'an, II, parts of verses 1-5; tughra of Abdulhamid II (AH 1293-1327/ AD 1876-1909); Qur'an, III, parts of 97;
In the middle, the names Allah and Mohamed;
At the bottom: "The Sultan Abdulhamid Khan (II), son of Abdulmecid, son of Mahmoud, son of Abdulhamid (I)".
This panel, which is from the Holy Ka'aba at Mekkah, is one of the finest such pieces to have appeared at auction. The tradition is to cut a fragment of textile during the hajj and according to the importance of different countries, fragments of varying sizes were sent to the Muslim rulers.
It would almost certainly have covered the Bab al-Tawbah, the Door of Repentance, which opens on the stairs leading to where idols were kept in pagan times before the Prophet Mohammad had them removed and destroyed. In later times, this area was used as a treasury for the precious gifts Muslim rulers bestowed on the shrine. It differs from the curtain which covered the outer door, which had a split in the middle to allow passage through it.
The Hijaz was under Ottoman rule until 1923, and this kiswah is embroidered with the tughra of Abdulhamid II.
A similar curtain is in the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait (N.F. Safwat, The Harmony of Letters, Singapore, 1997, pp. 114-5. Another example was sold at Christie's London, Islamic, Indian and Armenian Art and Manuscripts, 12th October 1999, lot 21 (sold for £110,000).