Mokhtar Alim Shaqdar — The doyen of Arabic calligraphy in Makkah


Saudi Gazette

MOKHTAR Alim Shaqdar is the official calligrapher of the kiswa, the black covering of the Holy Kaaba. Shaqdar replaced his predecessor Abdulraheem Bokhari, who died in 1996 at the age of 90.

Shaqdar joined the Calligraphy School of the Grand Mosque in 1978 where he studied for two years. At the time, he was in elementary school fourth grade.

After completing his BA in art education, Shaqdar worked as calligraphy teacher for 20 years at different places including Umm Al-Qura University.

Shaqdar holds a Master of Calligraphy degree and teaches the Holy Qur’an in the Grand Mosque. He is known as the doyen of Arabic Calligraphy in Makkah.

“One of my teachers recommended me to the Kiswa Factory and I joined it in 2003. I introduced the idea of using computers to print calligraphy. All the calligraphic arts that appear on the Kaaba's kiswa now are the works of the late Bokhari. I only made minor modifications and wrote the names of King Abdullah and King Salman. I also added some calligraphic art to some parts of the cloth,” he said.

Some people think that the Qur'anic text on the kiswa is written anew every year. But the factory has prepared templates for future use.

There are different phases for preparing the templates. First the text is written by hand on a piece of paper, then it is processed on the computer system by a graphic artist.

The processed text is printed on transparent paper, which is used to make the template. The template is then sent to the embroidery section where embroiders sew the kiswa using gold and silver threads.

The computer technology has helped the factory save the data of templates from being lost.