Palestinian culture: The THOB

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Nowadays what Palestinian women wear is determined by their religious believes, though it wasn’t always like this.Women in Palestine used to wear a Thob; a full length flare dress, that is loosely-fitted to allow a lot of movement.

Until the 1940s, traditional Palestinian costumes reflected a woman’s economic status, whether married or single, and the town or district of origin as well. A knowledgeable observer could collect such information from the fabric, colors, cut, and embroidery motives in a given woman’s apparel.

Approximately 100 years ago, Palestinian women from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jaffa, El Khalil (Hebron), Ramallah, Majdal and Gaza as well as the nomadic Bedouin of the southern desert region developed their own embroidery designs borrowing from architectural motifs, local plants, and spiritual symbols. The style of embroidered panels, types of fabrics, set them apart from one another to such a degree that their region of origin could be identified from a distance.

Thob from Bethlehem

Thob from Hebron

Thob from Ramallah

Embroidery was used on everyday dresses as well as wedding and special occasions dresses. Women were as distinctive working in the fields as they were visiting their husband’s family. These dresses were part of their identity. Work done by their own hands demonstrated their skill and imagination

Headdresses indicated whether women were married or unmarried. An unmarried woman would have very few coins, if any, on her headdress, whereas a married woman would display and carry her wealth on her head.

War in the Middle East has destroyed the unity of many cultures, especially the Palestinians. Palestinian women refugees have formed embroidery cooperatives in other countries as a mean of supporting themselves and their families. Using traditional patterns, these modern embroiderers produce contemporary items carrying ancient symbols of identity and pride to Palestinians expats.

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