Category Archives: Palestinian culture

Henna/mehendi tattoos

Standard

Henna is a flowering plant used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool. The name is also used for dye preparations derived from the plant, and for the art of temporary tattooing based on those dyes.

Henna powder

For skin dyeing, a paste of ground henna (either prepared from a dried powder or from fresh ground leaves) is placed in contact with the skin from a few hours to overnight. Henna stains can last a few days to a month depending on the quality of the paste, individual skin type, and how long the paste is allowed to stay on the skin.

Henna kit

The Night of the Henna was celebrated by most groups in the areas where henna grew naturally: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians, among others, all celebrated marriages by adorning the bride, and often the groom, with henna. It was also used for celebrations as birthdays, circumcision or religious one such as: Eid, Diwali or others. When there was joy, there was henna.

Henna was regarded as having “Barakah”  blessings, and was applied for luck as well as joy and beauty. Brides typically had the most henna, and the most complex patterns, to support their greatest joy, and wishes for luck. The fashion of  “Bridal Mehendi-Henna tattooing”  in Pakistan, Northern Libya and in North Indian Diasporas is currently growing in complexity and elaboration, with new innovations in glitter, gilding, and fine-line work.

Bridal henna designs

Henna patterns

Palestinian culture: The THOB

Standard

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.