Refugee camp embroidery projects  

history, products, museums, where and how to buy

 

"...through [Palestinian} embroidery and its promotion [we] keep a candle in the window..." 

Leila el Khalidi 

(to Jeni Allenby, October 2000)

A selection of embroidered and appliquéd cushions available through the Jordan Design and Trade Center, Amman (photograph taken in their main Amman showroom by Jeni Allenby November 2000) - see contact details below.

Embroidery projects set up to assist Palestinian refugee women with income, as well as to maintain and promote traditional Palestinian culture, appeared as early as the 1950s.  Most, however, were established in the mid 1980s, when the need for such projects was finally recognized by the international aid community.  While some of these projects are still tied to foreign organizations, many are now managing on their own and are especially in need of international markets for their products.

One of the earliest embroidery projects, established in Ramallah in 1950

Originally the most common item produced by the projects was the embroidered square cushion which came in two sizes (small and large or "jumbo" - a floor cushion) covered with traditional Palestinian designs in multicoloured cross stitch.  Other early products included household items such as oven gloves, tea towels, hand towels, table runners, coasters with a mixture of traditional designs and modern Christian motifs (Nativity scenes, stars and crosses etc) as many of the earliest embroidery projects received their funding from Christian aid agencies.  Traditional thobs were adapted for the western market into the shawal and "6 branch" styles, with 3/4 straight sleeves, bust darts, waists etc and the embroidery moved into non traditional areas, and the shawl was revived originally to accompany the shawal but now as an embroidered garment in it's own right.  1980s products included eyeglass holders, wallets, cosmetic purses, photo frames and dolls.   By the 1990s products were becoming far more varied, with individual projects making a name for themselves in certain fields - Jordan River Designs were known for their embroidered quilts and wall hangings, the ANAT Workshop for it's innovative dresses etc, while others remained more traditional in format.  Partially the range of products is limited by the project's funding.  For example, projects with a lower budget stick to simple items that can be made from both new embroidery and cut up old pieces of embroidery, while larger projects access the myriad of neighbouring Arab countries textile industries, utilizing Damascus atlas silks and Egyptian watered taffetas as well as Palestinian embroidery.  Absolutely everyone still makes cushions!  Only now they may be rectangular, or with the embroidery couched rather than cross stitched, or appliquéd in the heremezy style.

The Archive has assisted with the establishment and maintenance of several refugee aid embroidery projects over the last twenty years.  We originally acted as just an Australian and Asian outlet,  however with the growth of the internet, and the difficulty in contacting some of these projects, we find ourselves sending products worldwide.  Despite this, we still encourage you to contact the projects directly if possible and provide as many contact details about each project as we can.  As we hold the catalogues for many projects feel free to request details of products and images (which we can email to you) from us.

Products currently held in stock by the Archive are listed under each project.  Generally we have a selection of small items (purses,  coasters, hand towels, wallets, photo frames, dolls in traditional costume etc) as well as one or two special larger one-off pieces, such as quilts, wall hangings or tablecloths.  We also stock a few contemporary thobs, some made in the refugee camps in Jordan (see illustration), others somewhat more elaborate, imitating the traditional pre 1948 Bethlehem style.  We mention Palestinian designer Leila Jeryas in several sections of this website.  For images of her designs (modern interpretations of many traditional Palestinian regional and Jordanian styles as well as more Western garments such as jackets) and contact details please email us.

For anyone interested in purchasing pre 1948 costume and accessories please contact the Archive for advice on dealers.  We do have two costumes (1890s and 1920s) from Ashdod on consignment from a Jerusalem dealer at present.  (Images, provenance, condition report and price available upon request).

Embroidery projects are listed below by region.  We are more than happy to add any embroidery projects brought to our attention.

Qabbeh of a contemporary Palestinian thob made for the Archive by refugee women in Amman (now in stock).
A sample of cushions currently available - at the back, from Jordan River Designs, a cushion inspired by the wedding dresses of Siwa Oasis in Egypt: on the left, a cushion from the  Jordan Trade and Design Center displaying a mix of hand and machine embroidery (the latter of a style seen in pre 1948 wedding dresses from Jerusalem; and on the right a Bethlehem style couched cushion made by the Women's Child Care Society of Beit Jala, also available through Sunbula.

 


In the Palestinian region

There are several different categories of embroidery project - those established and maintained by foreign aid organizations, those that were established by foreign aid but are now run locally, and those set up and run by one of the various Palestinian women's organizations or societies.  The latter group have a long history in Palestine, where the women's movement began in the early years of the 20th century.  Mainly social and charitable organizations with humanitarian objectives were established at that time, which contributed greatly in promoting the role of Palestinian women in the educational, social, economic and political spheres.  Women's activities in Palestine have never been isolated from national issues.  However, by the 1980s women became more involved with political and national issues through these various Women's Committees which aimed to reach women from all social classes and mobilize them to struggle against class, gender and national oppression.  These days the societies focus more on the promoting and preserving of Palestinian cultural heritage, and the production of contemporary embroidery.

Palestine Red Crescent Society

Ladies working in the PRCS's Al Amal City Rehabilitation Society's embroidery program for handicapped women in Khan Younis.  The piece being embroidered on the right is for use in the ornate hand carved and embroidered chairs made by the PRCS and available through the www.jerusalem2001.com site.

Another of the beautiful embroidered chair covers made by the Al Amal City rehabilitation embroidery project.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society is a national humanitarian organization and observer member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.  It provides a wide range of high quality health, social and humanitarian services to Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories and other Arab countries.  PRCS was founded in 1968 in response to the health and welfare needs of the Palestinian people.  It has established over 80 hospitals, 300 clinics and numerous health and welfare societies.   PRCS works actively to preserve Palestinian cultural heritage and embroidery, assisting with exhibitions promoting this heritage worldwide. 

Most of the PRCS handicrafts are made at the Al Amal City complex in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip.  Set up in 1996 this community centre responds to the social, cultural, educational, rehabilitative and health needs of approx. 500,000 people.  The emphasis is on ongoing interaction with the community through the provision of various services and activities, with programs planned to stimulate social interaction and change, among both able and disabled.  Various vocational workshops are included in the complex, focusing on carpentry, machine knitting, sewing, embroidery and framing.  The production of traditional handicrafts promotes cultural pride as well as personal skills, for "behind each handmade item stands an individual, a family and a community".   Products include the ornate embroidered chairs that Chairman Arafat uses for hist VIP guests during media conferences, exquisitely carved and embroidered footstools, photograph frames, book covers, cushions and modern clothing.  The PRCS recently won the tender to design the stewardess outfits for Palestinian Airlines, the new national carrier operating out of Gaza Airport.  Samples shown to the Archive in late 2000 included the saru and nufnuf designs in every shade of contemporary pastel and traditional red.

The PRCS has museums of Palestinian costumes and crafts at Al Amal City in Khan Younis and at the Nur City complex in Gaza.  The costumes on display were formally exhibited in Cairo at the Palestinian Heritage House, also run by the PRCS who have always strongly supported the need to preserve and display Palestinian cultural heritage.  The Archive can provide installation images of both museums.  (For further information on the museums see our section on worldwide collections of Palestinian costume).   The products produced by the handicraft and embroidery section of the PRCS can be found at  the www.jerusalem2001.com website or through the Archive, and are available at shops in Al Amal City and Nur City.  Special orders can be placed with the ladies in the Al Amal Rehabilitation Society embroidery project via fax: 07 2136779 or through the Archive.  They recently embroidered a wonderful intifada dress for the Archive's permanent collection.

UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Project, Gaza

Embroidered qabbeh or chest panel from a child's dress from Sulafa, currently in stock.  Sulafa makes use of traditional motifs with non-traditional colours quite beautifully.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was founded in 1950 to deal with the Palestinian refugee crisis.  Fifty years later it still administers services within refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and neighbouring Arab countries.  Sulafa aims to maintain traditional Palestinian artistic integrity, to provide continuity in learning embroidery for the new generations, and to ensure that a traditional art form is kept alive.  All Sulafa's embroidery patterns are traditional, the oldest being the geometric and abstract patterns still found in Sinai bedouin embroidery.  The most common colour used in their work is deep red.  Hundreds of women located in centres within nine refugee camps in Gaza are given work by this project.

Photographs of the wives of President Clinton and Chairman Arafat, with the women who embroidered Mrs Clinton's jacket at Sulafa in Gaza City during Mrs Clinton's "listening" visit last year.  These two photographs had been proudly framed and displayed in the Sulafa shop until Mrs Clinton's anti-Palestinian comments made late in 2000.

Sulafa's main retail shop is part of the UNRWA complex in Gaza City.  However the Archive stocks some of their adult and children's thobs, which can be bought pre-embroidered but not assembled.  Images of these costumes can be emailed on request.  Sulafa makes beautiful multicoloured Palestinian thobs in the "6 branch" and shawal style.  They have a very nice touch with soft colours and pastel shades as well as the more traditional red and black.  Dresses come on white, cream or black linen, with cotton cross stitch.  It was Sulafa who made the jacket and waistcoat for Hillary and Chelsea Clinton when they visited Gaza last year.  As they were given very little time, the women worked day and night to get the two items ready and were very proud of both being given the commission and getting it done beautifully and on time.  The photograph of Hillary Clinton, Mrs Arafat and the women who made her jacket held pride of place in the Sulafa shop until Mrs Clinton's pro Zionist comments late last year, when it was demoted to a less prominent position.  Mrs Clinton's thank-you letter to the UNRWA project was also returned to the American Embassy when it was found to contain the statement that the jacket would always remind her of "her first trip to Israel".

Sulafa can be contacted through the current head of the embroidery project Lilian Tarazi at LTarazi@unrwa.un.org.at, tel: 07 6777294 fax: 07 67773888.  Their retail shop is part of the UNRWA compound in Gaza City. Some of their products are also available through Sunbula and the Archive.

Sunbula, Jerusalem

A selection of cushions available through Sunbula including cross stitched cushions from the Bethlehem Arab women's Union (A, B, D and E) and the couched style of the Women's Child Care Society of Beit Jala (C). (image courtesy of Sunbula)

In the late 1980s, at the time of the intifada, the non-profit Sunbula (or Craftaid) was established by Carol Morton, wife of the pastor of St Andrew's Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem, as an outlet for Palestinian crafts that had formally had few market outlets.  Over the years, and particularly under the directorship of  Elena Qleibo, Sunbula has become the major outlet providing a wide variety of beautiful crafts for sale for women's groups, centres for the handicapped and refugee camps, including the Kalandia Camp Cooperative, Ladiya, the Women's Child Care Society of Beit Jala, the Aftaluna Society for Deaf Children in Gaza and the Bethlehem Arab Women's Union. 

Committed to "social justice and economic self sufficiency", Sunbula provides " support and a market outlet to village level women's and refugee groups producing traditional West Bank and Gaza arts and crafts".  Despite that claim, originally their focus was on Christian themed products (olive wood ornaments, nativity scene dolls, Xmas tree decorations and embroidery with Christian imagery) these are now supplemented with products featuring more traditional embroidery designs. Products in both cross stitch and tahriri Bethlehem style couching are available.  There is also a recent publication in conjunction with the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem, Embroidering a life: Palestinian women and embroidery available direct or through the Archive, and a video Thread of hope.

Sunbula also trains it's talented partners in sewing and other techniques, management and promotional skills and product development.  Around 75% of their proceeds returns to the artisans.   The name sunbula means  a spike of wheat in Arabic, "it is aish life.  Sunbula provides the thread of embroidery that sews dreams into reality, the dreams of women eager to realize an identity and independence in life".

Sunbula can be contacted at sunbula@palnet.com or at PO Box 8619, Jerusalem, tel/fax  02672 1707.  Their recent catalogue is well worth acquiring and is available direct or through the Archive. 

 NEW!!! You can now order online from Sunbula's website at www.sunbula.org!!

In'ash El Usra Society, El Bireh

A sample of the type of traditional embroidery with modern colouring produced by In'ash El Usra

Established in 1965 the Society's aim was to raise "the awareness of women in the cultural, social and political spheres and arming them with the means to face the challenges of their times".  It has endeavoured to achieve these aims by opening vocational and cultural centres that enable women to become financially independent and thus "enabling them to help alleviate the suffering of their people and maintain their existence on their land".

"The catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in 1948, which resulted in the dispersion of the [Palestinian people] raised the awareness of our people to the looming threat to our identity, to our history and our very existence on our land.  It became incumbent upon us to challenge the statement that Palestine was a land without a people, by mobilizing our efforts to reveal the truth...the Society translated this into action by establishing a Folklore Committee in 1972 [and developed a] Folkloric Center that publishes a journal and folkloric books [and] runs a museum which has impressive archives".

Currently over 5,000 women embroider for the Society, which acts not only as an income generating project for the Society but enables the Society to achieve it's aim in preserving and developing Palestinian folk art, as well as helping women help themselves.  The Society stays as close as it can to the traditional, using DMC threads and incorporating modern elements "to enrich and modernize this art".  A booklet Palestinian embroidery of the Society of In'ash El-Usra was published in 1996, illustrating both contemporary products and costumes and accessories from their museum's collection.  Copies can be obtained direct from In'ash El-Usra (PO Box 3549, El-Bireh, Palestine or through the Archive). 

A measure of the success of In'ash El-Usra is given by the following excerpt from a lecture by Sameeha Salameh Khalid, President of the Society: "...our success has attracted the attention of new groups who were thinking of emulating our model.  For instance, the Birzeit Women's Charitable Society invited me to speak about my experiences with In'ash El-Usra.  Shortly after that I received an order from the [Israeli] military forbidding me to lecture anywhere and threatening me with five years imprisonment for infringing the order.  I sent the speech I had written to the Israeli military governor to show him that it was not political.  But the Israeli authorities understand that, in reality, teaching women to be self sufficient is political; making products that compete with Israeli goods, even on a small scale, is political.  It means that we are a people seeking and deserving self determination instead of occupation.  There is no law on earth that says teaching people to retain their dignity is a punishable offence, and the Israeli authorities know it...".

In'ash El-Usra can be contacted at usra@palnet.com or tel: 02 2402876 fax: 02 2401544.  Their website at www.inash.org may hopefully now be working again.  Quite a lot of images of In'ash El-Usra products can bee seen at www.palestinianembroider.tripod.com, an American site set up by the Ladeh Foundation to promote Palestinian embroidery.  Illustrations are primarily of contemporary (post 1948) refugee embroidery project material, with text sections on pre 1948 stitches and patterns.

Samou Charitable Society, Hebron

An independent weaving project, the SCS attempts to improve the condition of families struggling to survive by promoting income and providing young Palestinians with a profession.  Taught everything from sheep shearing to how to finish off a carpet by elderly women from Samou village, the younger generation keeps alive an old Palestinian tradition.  Natural "oriental" spices are used to achieve a wide spectrum of shades, while the designs are based on Bedouin styles.

Lakiya Negev Bedouin Weaving

A Lakiya weaver (image courtesy of Sunbula)

Established in 1991 as an income generating project for Palestinian bedouin women living in villages and homesteads in the Negev Desert, Lakiya provides women with the opportunity to develop the traditional skills of spinning and weaving, and to acquire new roles and skills in dyeing, production and business management.  Traditional ground looms are used with pure local sheep's wool.  Lakiya's warpface weave is particularly tight and strong, making their rugs especially durable.  Crafted in both traditional and modern designs, Lakiya's rugs evoke refinement, beauty and originality.

PO Box 1588, Omer 84965. Email: lakiya@netvision.il or through Sunbula.

Benevolent Art Society of the Holy Land, Jerusalem

Set up after the 1967 war by Farideh Hanna, the Benvolent Art Society of the Holy Land is one of the oldest embroidery projects providing extra income for Palestinian women working from their homes.  These days Mrs Hanna employs several hundred women from all over the Palestinian region, from villages, towns and refugee camps (including D'heisheh Camp, Anabta Camp and Jabiliya Camp).  The fabric, thread and design of each piece is given to each embroiderer.  When the piece is returned to the shop in the Old City of Jerusalem, another woman washes and irons it, while a third fashions it into the prescribed item.   The Benevolent Art Society is particularly famous for it's production of religious vestments, including stoles and chasubles available in a variety of colours and designs. 

The Society is on the Via Dolorosa 6th Station in the Old city, PO Box 19442, Jerusalem tel: 284367.  The Archive can provide further information on vestments upon request.

Pastoral Center, Ramallah

Pastoral Center, Ramallah (image courtesy of Sunbula)

The Center began in 1988 as a response to the need of families in the Ramallah area after the outbreak of the intifada.  The Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church Center felt they must do something to relieve the conditions of poverty of local families, particularly for women.  The initial 85 women employed to embroider, both Moslem and Christian, quickly grew to 400 workers because of the increase in need (200 had to be laid off in 1994 until a new outlet for products could be found).  Most embroider from home, with a few involved with the sewing and administration at the Center.  Difficulties in marketing continue with the frequent closure of the Palestinian Areas making distribution in Jerusalem more difficult than ever.  Typical products are wall hangings, cushions, and bags.   Their products are currently available through Sunbula.

Surif Women's Cooperative (formally Palestinian Needlework)

In the village of Surif, near Hebron in the West Bank, the Mennonite Central Committee initiated the Palestinian Needlework program in 1950.  The self help project was designed to supplement refugee women's family incomes and enhance their own self reliance through employment.  In 1979 village women themselves took responsibility for the program: in 1983 it was registered as the Surif Women's Cooperative for Embroidery.  More than 400 women from Surif and the surrounding villages contribute to the program and keep this unique form of Palestinian heritage alive.   Products such as guest towels, tablecloths, clerical stoles etc feature embroidery patterns derived from local village dresses worked in traditional cross stitch (formally, being a Christian aid project, most products featured Christian themes and traditional cross stitch designs adapted to Christian imagery).  Being deep in the West Bank marketing the products is an ongoing difficulty due to problems with access.  At the moment the best way to obtain their products is through Sunbula.

Association of Women's Committees for Social Work in Palestine (Ramallah, Hebron, Jerin, Nablus, Jericho etc)

The AWCSW is a mass-based, grass-roots organization founded in 1981 that works towards improving women's economic, social and cultural positions and defending women's right to work, to education and self development.  The Association programs include 128 kindergartens, three nurseries, sewing training centres, home embroidery projects, children's libraries, cultural exhibitions and bazaars to sell traditional Palestinian products.   The AWCSW also provides legal aid and training.  Their future goals include assisting women to start their own small businesses, training women in new skills and encouraging women to become more involved in politics.

Tel/fax: 02 2740729 (current director: Khawla al-Azraq)

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, Gaza

ASDC children (image courtesy of Sunbula)

Founded in 1992 the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children is the only institution in Gaza devoted to educating the deaf.  A registered Palestinian NGO located in Gaza City, Atfaluna's services include audiology, a school for deaf children, the development of a curricula for the deaf and a family outreach program.  Their products are handcrafted in their vocational training and men's and women's income generating programs, programs created to address the lack of job opportunities and training facilities in the Gaza Strip (where unemployment is over 60%).  The vocational training programs provide practical skills necessary to complete in this harsh environment while allowing women to contribute to the family's budget, which raises both the family's living standards and the woman's status within the home.  Atfaluna strives to produce products that reflect Palestine's rich culture and heritage and yet are unique to Atfaluna.  Designed by Atfaluna staff and deaf trainees, the products feature quality materials and durability.  Atfaluna has become famous for their exquisite wooden camel products (their camel Xmas tree decorations are illustrated here) as well as their distinctive embroidered items.  Their products are available through the Archive, through Sunbula and direct from their website at www.geocities.com/~atfaluna.  The Archive can supply images of further products not listed on their website on request.

tel/fax: 07 2865468/28495 email: atfaluna@trendline.co.il

A range of Atfaluna's distinctive embroidered cushions (Photo: courtesy of ASDC)

Atfaluna's popular wooden camels as delightful Xmas tree decorations (Photo: courtesy of ASDC)

Women and Child Care Society, Beit Jala

Women and Child Care Society embroiderer, showing tahriri work. (image courtesy of Sunbula)

Organized by local women in 1944, the Society was established to assist the victims of the Israeli-Palestinian war and the refugees pouring into the Bethlehem region.  The Women's Child Care Society is the only embroidery project to focus on the production of the tahriri or couching stitch made famous by the pre 1948 embroiderers of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.  The Society produces cushions (see illustrations above), belts, qabbeh, cuff and shirt panels in beautiful tahriri work in both traditional colours and in more contemporary blue and green shades (see images above).  Their work is also available through Sunbula and through the Archive, who has several of their blue and green cushions available.

PO Box 313, Beit Jala.  Tel and fax: 02 2742507 (current director: Lidia al-'Araj)

Arab Women's Union, Bethlehem

Women from the Art Women's Union in full traditional Bethlehem pre 1948 costume - one of the postcards produced by their museum.

Founded in 1947 as a first aid centre to help victims of the Israeli-Palestinian war, today the Union has an arts and crafts centre, a food service, and a new museum.  Their embroidery products feature traditional Bethlehem style work (although not usually tahriri work) with designs taken from pre 1948 pieces.  Their products (some of which are illustrated above) are also available through Sunbula.

The Bethlehem Folklore Museum (Beituna Al-Talhami Museum) run by the Union is a tiny jewel of a museum on Paul VI Street up from Manger Square in Bethlehem.  For further information see worldwide collections of Palestinian costume.

PO Box 19, Bethlehem. Tel: 02 2742453 (product production) or 02 2742589 (museum).  Fax: 02 2766035 (current director: Julia Dabdoub)

Other women's associations and charitable organizations in Palestine that include embroidery programs include:

Hebron Poor Women's Embroidery Project

The hand embroidered shawl designed as part of the Project's first major international order (Photo: courtesy of Ellen Rosser)

The Hebron Poor Women's embroidery Project is a relief project of the Friendship and Peace Society, a non profit organization created in 1995 and chartered by the Palestinian Authority to bring Muslims, Jews and Christians together for friendship and peace.  The Embroidery Project is a women's group composed almost entirely of women who are the sole support of their families, including widows, divorced women, and women whose husbands are ill or unemployed.  The Project works with women from the Hebron region, including Beit Kahel, Sumua, Tatta, Idna and Beni Naim.  Originally women brought pre-made pieces of embroidery to the Project for sale but now special items are made on commission.  The Project has just received their first major international order for hand loomed, hand embroidered shawls and table runners (the fabric is supplied by the Noor Foundation in Jordan) which will provide a year's education and clothing for the children of the fifty very poor women working on the consignment.  

Further information about the Project and product catalogues can be obtained from the Archive or from Ellen Rosser, Friendship and Peace Society, PO Box 18964 Sarasota, Florida 34276-1964.  Fax: 9419664040.  Email: e.rosser@worldnet.att.net.  Products can be obtained in the U.S.A. direct from Ellen Rosser.  Product images can be seen at http:/home.att.net/~e.rosser/inbro5001.htm. 

Hebron Poor Women's Embroidery Project cushion (Photo: courtesy of Ellen Rosser)

An- Najda Society for Women's Work, Gaza tel: 07 2869990

Palestinian Women's Union, Gaza (est.1964) tel: 07 2862586

Union of Women's Struggle, Khan Younis (contact: Zainab Abu Musa) tel: 07 2054272 fax: 07 2051947

Palestinian Federation of Women's Action Committee (various centres) (est.1982) tel: 06 243942

Dar el Tifl el Arabi, Jerusalem (est.1948) - women's college as well as the only major Palestinian heritage museum in the Palestinian region, for further details see worldwide collections of Palestinian costume tel; 02 6283251

Handicrafts Training Workshop Society for Girls, Bethlehem (est. 1972) (director: Sarah Barakat) tel: 02 2742696 fax: 02 2741134 email: hopecrafts@aol.com

Jerusalem Square Charitable Society, Hebron tel: 9924749

Charitable Cultural Social Society, Nablus (est.1945) (head: Jihan Al-Masri) PO Box 751 Nablus, tel/fax: 09 2385429

Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Jerusalem (sells Christian themed products such as Nativity scenes etc) tel: 02 6282593 fax: 02 6284654 email: ywca@ywca-palestine.org

Young Women's Moslem Association, Jerusalem (est.1979) tel: 02 5819148 fax: 02 5827391

Co-operative Society of Kalandia Camp for Sewing and Manual Crafts (est.1958) (director: Sahar Faraj) PO Box 38125 Kufr Aqab

An-Nahda Women's Society, Ramallah (est.1925) (head: Badia Khalaf) PO Box 1108 Ramallah, tel: 02 2956853 fax: 02 2957176

Family Revival Association, Gaza (est.1995) (director: Fatima Mizher) tel: 07 2824669 fax: 07 2822087 email: eafg@p-a-s.com

Infant Care Society, Ramallah (est.1945) (director: Jamila Qasis) PO Box 897 Ramallah, tel: 02 2953872 fax: 02 2987182 

Palestinian Association for Motherhood and Childhood, Gaza (director: Fathi As-Sbaghi) tel/fax: 07 2845922

Jerusalem Organization for Social Services, Northern Gaza (Al Mashtal) (tel 2824732)

Women's Qualification Program (Mental Health), Gaza, El Rimal (tel: 2827245)

El Beit El Samed Association, Gaza, Abdul Kader El Husseiney St (2864116)

Social Work Women Committees Union, Gaza, El Shuhada St (tel: 2822727)

Handicapped Association, Gaza, Ansaar

The Palestinian Women's Union, Gaza, El Rimal (tel: 2862586)

Islamic Young Women's Organization, Gaza (tel: 2822206)

Ebna Association for Artistic Work, Gaza

The Heritage Association, Gaza (tel: 2857676)

(For a comprehensive list of Palestinian women's organizations and associations please contact PASSIA or the Archive)  

Other retail outlets for embroidery:

World Vision

World Vision is an international network of Christian humanitarian agencies working in over 90 countries worldwide.  Their aims are to provide relief work, sustainable community development, education and eradication of poverty.  Their projects include rehabilitation centres such as Atfaluna and community projects such as Lakiya (both listed above).  They have recently opened a new shop located at the intersection of Salah Eldin Street and Nablus Road in Jerusalem to promote handwork from some of their relief and community development projects, displaying contemporary Palestinian embroidery, Bedouin carpets, wood craft and "unique camels and a few sheep" (according to their promotional flyer!).  Their embroidery is usually Christian themed (Nativities, Xmas motifs etc) with a little traditional work, with products including tea towels, oven mats, shawls, belts, eyeglass cases etc.  For further details ring 967 2 6281793.

Melia Center, Old City of Jerusalem (inside New Gate, on Casanova Road) tel: 02 6281377

MCC Palestinian Needlework Shop (across from the Ambassador hotel) tel: 02 52828834

Other traditional Palestinian handicraft outlets:

The Archive has also been working with the Arts and Crafts Village in Gaza city to promote the Village's Weaving House project. In Palestine weaving was traditionally a male profession.  This project is run by Abu Khalil Samiha, a member of one of Gaza's oldest weaving families, who employs one of the few remaining weavers in Gaza, Rafik Zakout to work at the Village. The Weaving House project is the last place producing traditional Palestinian fabrics, woven on a 70 year old loom brought from Al Majdal in 1948 (the other few remaining weavers do not produce cloth). A plain weave is used for most of the formally popular dress fabrics, each having its own particular name. Most popular of these is Jinna u Naar "Heaven and Hell", with a red and a green stripe on the edges of the cloth. Biltajji has small white details with the red and green, Djelijli has only red stripes, and Abu Mitteen ("Father of Two Hundred") has red and red with green. All of these come on black or indigo dyed cloth, with similar styles on white cloth. A dress length for a traditional thob measures about 8 1/2 metres of the standard 40com wide fabric. The cloth is also used for tablecloths, cushion covers etc, and special colours, weaves and patterns can be made to order.

Arts and Crafts Village Weaving House Project, Gaza (Photo: courtesy Samar Baker)

The courtyard of the Arts and Crafts Village, Gaza (Photo: courtesy of Samar Baker)

The Archive can provide scanned images of each of the fabrics. Cloth can be purchased either directly from the Arts and Crafts Village (Director Samar Baker c/- artvlg@palnet.com or tel/fax: +970 8 2846405) or through the Archive.

The Arts and Crafts Village is a beautiful arts centre, architecturally designed in the traditional Palestinian manner from earth (adobe) using local materials. As well as the Weaving House the Village also features an Embroidery House, Copper House, Rug House, Pottery House, Gallery and Coffee Shop. Further information on these projects can be obtained from director Samar Baker, and from the Village's website at www.gazavillage.com.

Other traditional embroidery outlets in Gaza include:

In Jordan

Family Care Society, Amman

An example of a contemporary dress by the Family Care Society on the left, with one of the embroiderers for the society on the right.

Set up in 1969 the Family Care Society helps Palestinian refugees, both "the dislocated and the needy", providing material and moral support as well as professional training.  The Society has established vocational and rehabilitation centres in various refugee camps - including Jabal Al Hussein Camp, Al Wahdat Camp, Al Talibieh Camp, Marka Camp and Al Baq'a Camp -  teaching women the art of sewing and embroidery, as well as establishing kindergartens, adult education centres, and providing financial assistance and free health services.  The society also preserves "Palestinian culture and the art of embroidery by passing it on from one generation to another and by developing old styles to accommodate the needs of the modern woman".

The Society published Palestinian Folk Dresses: Traditional and Modern by Hanan Ghosheh Al-Hassan in 1997 featuring both pre 1948 costumes that can be "replicated" and "modernized" dresses for the woman of today.  They are one of the few organizations to feature a really great intifada dress, complete with a checked kaffiya belt and kaffiya cloth appliqués in the skirt panels.  All dresses in the book can be reproduced.

The Society's address is PO Box 921395 Amman, tel: 640053 - 61238

Jordan Design and Trade Center, Amman

Established in 1990 as a project of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation , JDTC's mission is to create employment among low income communities, particularly for women.  The Center strives to preserve ancient Jordanian crafts including embroidered home furnishings, woven floor and wall coverings, jewellery and basketry.  Their embroidered cushions are innovative and beautiful, with stitches and patterns drawn from the traditional Jordanian and Palestinian design.  Examples of these, and their other products, can be seen at www.nhf.org.jo.  The Archive holds a range of their products both in our permanent collection and for sale.  These include embroidered and appliquéd cushions, dolls in traditional Gulf costume and ceramics.  Images can be emailed upon request (see also the top image on this page).

PO Box 950805 Amman 11195 Jordan, tel: 962 5699141 fax: 962 5685298 email: jdtc@netscom.jo 

Jordan River Designs, Amman

Dolls in traditional Bethlehem and Jordanian dress from Jordan River Designs, currently in stock.

The Jordan River Designs project is a community based socio-economic and training program targeting women living in east Amman.  Established in 1987, the project's purpose is to assist Palestinian refugee women living in the settlements of Jabal Al-Natheef and Mahatta to acquire skills to produce elegant handicrafts and earn a better income.  The product line includes embroidered quilts, cushions, tablecloths, wall hangings, bags and dolls dressed in traditional Palestinian and Jordanian costume.  More than 1,600 women have benefited from the project. 

Products from Jordan River Designs are very special.  Their quilts are quite extraordinary, with their intricate cross stitch and heremezy work, but perhaps economically out of the reach of most of us.  Still, their other products are a delight.  The Archive currently has in stock dolls in the costumes of Bethlehem (complete with gold coined headdress) and Ramallah; a tablecloth of watered silk with silk embroidery and crystal beading in the style of the elaborate wedding dresses from Siwa Oasis in Egypt; and a large embroidered wall hanging featuring a Tree of Life design derived from the 19th century tiles in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.  We really don't want to part with them!  Images are available on request. 

Jordan River Designs can be contacted at PO Box 2943, Amman, Jordan or emailed at jrd@nets.com.jo.  Their new website is at http://www.access2arabia.com/jrd/

Bani Hamida

The US based Save The Children Federation set up the Bani Hamida Women's Weaving Project in 1985, to provide jobs for the women of the Bani Hamida tribe and revive the traditional bedouin craft of rug weaving.  The Bani Hamida weavers still spin wool on wooden spindles and produce rugs in the traditional way - on the ground, constructing their flat looms from sticks, rocks and other available objects.  Their weavings come in a variety of colours, sizes and designs, and include rugs, runners, wall hangings, cushions and mats.  high quality acid based dyes are used to ensure that the colours are broadly varied - from bold traditional to soft contemporary pastel hues.  some designs are rendered solely in natural shades of dark brown to native white, while others combine natural and dyed yarns.

There is a website at www.arab-business.net/bani.  The Archive also has quite a lot of images of Bani Hamida weavings (because we like them so much!) which we are happy to email out upon request.

Al Burgan Handicrafts, Amman

Exquisite daypacks made of Damascus silks, Egyptian taffetas and cross stitch now in stock.
Ducklings in waistcoats of Damascus silks and embroideries available through the Archive from Al Burgan Handicrafts.

Al Burgan Handicrafts in Amman produce some of the most popular products that the Archive has ever stocked.  Based on Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery and craft traditions, Al Burgan creates a fascinating range of bathwear and sleepwear garments (too good to wear to bed, we wear them to parties!), dolls in traditional Jordanian costume (and toy ducklings with waistcoats of stripped atlas silk!), daypacks, address books, teapot covers in the shape of mosques, coasters, etc - all in their distinctive mix of Damascus atlas silks, Egyptian watered taffetas and Palestinian cross stitch and couched embroidery.  Their fabrics are luxurious, their products tactile and innovative.  You can email them direct at alburgan@go.com.jo or fax them at 9626 4652675.  Images of their products, and the products themselves, are also available through the Archive.

 

The Women's Handicrafts Society, Amman

The society aims to provide markets for traditional handicrafts, to encourage home industries, to preserve old crafts and traditional designs, and to encourage Arab women to understand the world of business.  

In Syria

ANAT Workshop, Damascus

An example of an ANAT dress based on pre 1948 Hebron styles.

The ANAT Workshop was founded in 1988 in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.  The aim of the workshop was to provide employment for women refugees and to preserve and promote Palestinian heritage. 

"We want to fight the poverty of modern day slums, with their two faced paucity, [their] lack of resources as well as [their] lack of culture, traditions, social bindings, roots, and hope for the future.  Our cultural heritage helps us restore our self confidence and defend our national identity.  At the same time by practicing and developing our traditions and showing them to the world we might regain some friends for our people, a people [who] have created a cultural treasure for mankind and [who] do not deserve the bad image they have in the western world".

Currently over 300 women embroider for the workshop, which was set up by Heike Weber, who has lived in Syria for twenty years, and about 15 other women with about $200!  From the very beginning they wanted to be independent from any Palestinian or foreign aid organizations so that they could retain the decision making process.  They not only provide employment but teach embroidery and research the history of the craft, it's social importance and symbolism.  All profits go back into developing their work. 

They work from one large workshop and a shop in the old market in Damascus.  They plan to open an atelier for tailoring their clothes this year, and are also planning a women's centre as a venue to hold course, discussions, music, exhibitions, fashion shows and medical and legal aid for women.  They are also in the process of helping women in outlying areas with small loans.  Their main goal at the moment is to buy a car so that they can drive to the villages and distribute work there. 

Each year they do two international fashion shows.  Last year these were in Lebanon and Germany.  This year they are planned in Melbourne and Sydney.  If you would like to assist them with arranging a fashion show in your city please contact them directly.

Their director Heike Weber has also published an interesting brochure Anat's Erbe: Palestinensische stickerei eine frauenkunst, 1992 available through ANAT or the Archive.  ANAT also has some lovely postcards for sale.

PO Box 5122 Damascus Syria tel/fax: 0096311 or 6340085 between 8am and 3pm local time (contact: Heike Weber).  

In Lebanon

Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps, Beirut

The Association established in 1969 the Chatila Workshop, a workshop outlet for women to revive traditional needlework skills.  This was followed by similar projects at Baalbeck, Rashidiyah and Tyre (in southern Lebanon) under the auspices of Association Najdeh, an independent non government organization working in and around Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.  Their aim was to empower women through vocational training and education, social affairs, income generation and embroidery projects, of which Al Badia was their first (see below).

PO Box 113-6099, Beirut email: association@najdeh.org.lb

Al Badia, Beirut

An example of Al Badia's work: a rare 19th century veil tarhat from Jerusalem, the original held in the collection of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation, USA, recreated faithfully for the Archive over three months.  

Al Badia produce lovely things, and a copy of the catalogue is worth writing for.  Made by Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon, their products are both traditional and practical: from wall hangings to handbags, from credit card cases to Xmas tree ornaments, all beautifully cross stitched with immaculate finishing.  Perhaps under the influence of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in the US who assists and advises them, Al Badia puts a lot of effort into establishing the origin of each design, it's geographical region and it's name (all Palestinian embroidery motifs are named, with wonderful titles like "the old man's teeth", "the pasha's tent", "the khol pot" etc).  Thus, for Palestinians abroad, you can buy a cushion in Khan Younis style with "cup" motifs, or a zippered purse with a Jaffa motif, or an abaya with motifs from a rare 19th century Bethlehem headveil.  Al Badia will also undertake specific commissions to reproduce pre 1948 costumes or embroideries in museum collections.  They recently made for the Archive a traditional veil from Jerusalem in three panels, from an original held in the collection of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation.

Al Badia can be contacted at PO Box 113-6099, Beirut, Lebanon, email: albadia@cyberia.net.lb.  Their site is www.almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/300/360/362/najdeh/images/embroidery and images of their catalogue can be emailed from the Archive.  In America their products are available through the Palestinian Heritage Foundation (email: palherf@aol.com) and PO Box 1018, West Caldwell, New Jersey 07006.

For further information on museum and private collections of Palestinian costume, including the Palestinian Heritage Foundation see Worldwide collections of Palestinian costume.  Articles on the Foundation can be seen at www.cafearabica.com/issie1/sections/culture/farah&hanah/comit2.html  and www.umassd.edu/specialprograms/mideastaffairs/palestin.

National Institution for Social Care and Vocational Training, Beirut (est.1970s) (who support a traditional Palestinian embroidery program)

In Egypt

Palestinian Heritage House, Cairo

Although the Palestinian Heritage House in Cairo has now been closed (the display and permanent collection has been move to Khan Younis, to the Palestine Red Crescent Society's Al Amal City Museum) the Palestinian women in exile in Cairo are still producing embroidered items for sale to supplement their income and promote Palestinian culture.  They are now apparently based at the Palestine Red Crescent Society's Palestine Hospital in Cairo, on the 4th floor in the Cultural Center.  If you have a moment free in Cairo please visit them and support their work.  We have a lovely scarlet pure wool abaya embroidered with turquoise silk thread in Gaza style designs, acquired from the group in 1997.

 For further information about contemporary Palestinian costume see Palestinian costume post 1948 and an example of Palestinian costume and heritage in the Diaspora see Palestinian costume in Australia.  For further information on museum collections of Palestinian costume see worldwide collections of Palestinian costume.

(The Archive thanks Sunbula for the use of some of the images on this page, and Sunbula and Leila el Khalida for information about some of the embroidery projects listed).