Palestinian women with a traditional dress in a National Palestinian Day. Credit: Facebook image

One of the most beautiful dresses in Palestine is a thobe, which is a traditional embroidered dress handmade and worn for centuries by Palestinian women; it is the bedrock of Palestinian textile artistry.

Every Palestinian woman has one in her wardrobe, they wear it in their merry occasions such as wedding parties, graduation day, their birthdays, and also at national Palestinian events.

Palestinian women are known for showcasing their skillful stitchery on their traditional costume. Displaying distinctive motifs, colours, and styles across the various villages of old Palestine, they show the world the ability to draw the culture of their region in the dresses.

A group of women while dancing Al- Dabka ” a traditional dance” in a Palestinian wedding party.

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The history of Palestinian thobe’s goes back to the early 19th century where the embroidered cloths were found in villages. But the interest in the Palestinian dresses started at the same time the outbreak of the first intifada ( the first war between Israel and Palestine) in 2000. Hence, many Palestinians consider this as a heritage, a weapon with which they defend their history and identity.

The Palestinian dress is a symbol of the its cultural identity and a mirror to Palestinian history. It is a beautiful piece of art which links the land with Palestinian life identity from obliteration, Judaization and loss. Just like in Assam one has a variety of traditional wears like Mekhla Chador, Dokhna, Dhoti, the same is for Palestine as well as a dress made in a particular region will be influenced by their culture and heritage.

It is hard to find any national Palestinian event; including weddings and special occasions without the traditional Palestinian dress. It is a folk art that the Palestinians have inherited from generation after generation, and whose wool yarns narrate the story of a city, town or a village. It also depicts an identity that has undergone many change since 3000 years back to the Canaanite era.

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The traditional Palestinian dress is a rich cultural heritage with engraved geometric units on the dresses. These geometrics were inherited by different generations of mothers as they go on passing to their daughters. Hence they learn the art of embroidery at an early age. After mastering the art of needle and thread, they transfer the identity of their villages on their dresses.

It is a Canaanite icon that protects the Palestinian identity from obliteration, Judaization and loss. The dress takes several months to complete in which the colours overlap to draw a masterpiece which the Palestinian women wear. Palestinian dresses are designed by hand with a lot of decorative drawings using many pieces of wool yarns and colours.

The journey to complete the dress begins by choosing the perfect fabric, usually of the luxurious type. Then the embroidery pattern is taken from the surrounding environment of the region or a decorative painting. As for the colours, the most important of them is the Canaanite colour, taken from the word ‘Kanaggi’. It means the nymph of the purple or scarlet colour, which the Canaanites manufactured and were even famous for.

Thobe with a Canaanite colour.

Palestinian cities are distinguished by their dresses, as it often reflects the class and social status of women. The dresses in Jericho is one of the oldest Palestinian dresses. This garment is characterized by the longitudinal lines and decorations that are related to the fossil monuments found in the city. Historically, the women folk used to wear this dress when presenting gifts to the Pharaohs and at important social events.

When one wears this dress, it feels like holding onto a long journey of struggle to make a beautiful piece of history. Each of the shapes in the dress, tells a story of the women who weaved the dress.

Each dress has a unique shape which is tells a story of Palestinian cities. A rock for Jerusalem, a red flower for Ramallah city, orange and apple trees for Jaffa, branches and papers of the trees for Hebron, large-sized engineering units for Gaza, watches shape for Bethlehem, pictures and flowers shapes for Beersheba and a camel for Jenin.

Ramallah city thobe with a red flower shapes.

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According to the historical events, it is alleged that the traditional Palestinian dresses design was stolen by Israel community, deliberately registering the Palestinian dress in its name in the fourth volume of the World Encyclopedia in 1993. Moreover, many Israeli personalities are also interested in appearing in the Palestinian dress in international forums, for increasing their public image historical depth and national character.

The Palestinian dress is the most vital thing that the ancestors left for us. So, we have to protect it, for it is the one that paints the complete picture of the homeland, its heritage and civilization over the generations. And as it was said, “A nation without heritage … a nation without a future”.

(The author is an international intern for EastMojo, from Gaza, Palestine. She is currently pursuing master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism from Tezpur University. She is on the mission to sensitize the people of NorthEast of the situation and the grim reality of the happenings in Palestine.)

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