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The Palestinian Dress, Thob: The Story of Place and Memory

Put your seatbelt on because we’re about to go on a journey to Palestine and get to know different types of Thob from different areas.  “Thob is the traditional dress that women wear in Palestine. Different regions in Palestine have their own style. The Palestinian traditional dress has the advantage of each region expressing, in its dress, the nature of its geography.

Each area is recognizable by the dress’s colors and decorations. The dark red of Ramallah and the orange red of Beer Sheva and the decorations and embroidery on each garment reflect the surrounding environment of trees, mountains, beliefs, and heritage.

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Thob, Palestinian traditional dress

Here is every type of thob in differnet regions in Palestine:

1 – Majdalawi thob: It is one of the most famous Palestinian traditional dresses and it’s manufactured by the hands of the people of Majdal who kept the spinning and weaving industry going, especially after their forced emigration to the Gaza Strip and other neighboring countries.

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Majdalawi thob

2 – The Striped Thob: It is made of silk cloth and lined with longitudinal strips of the same fabric. The areas of Jenin, Al-Tayera, and Al-Taybeh are famous for this dress. For the northern West Bank, especially the Jenin area, it is simply a long-sleeved white dress. This is due to the work of Palestinian women in agriculture in the Palestinian countryside for a long time.

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The Striped Thob

3 – Saboawi Thob: It belongs to the region of Beer Sheva, or Bir Al Sabe’ .The dresses are precisely characterized by their design and decoration. As for the Negev Desert in the south of the country, the dress of Beer Sheva can be adapted for a dramatic story. The red color is for the Palestinian bride and blue is the color of the widow. The second marriage is decorated with red flowers. The face veil, decorated with golden and silver coins, is used for several reasons. It protects the face from the sun’s rays in the desert and from the sand, and it symbolizes the demureness after puberty, and it can even be worn to demonstrate the richness of the bride.

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Saboawi thob

4 – Thob of Bethlehem, “Queen’s Thob”: An ancient dress was special for the queens of Palestine in the old and famous Bethlehem area. It is a kind of simple farming dress characterized by a bow on the chest called – Talhami- or reeds. Like the bride’s dress, the cloth of silk is lined in bright colors and characterized by the density of embroidery on the chest part. The sides are in the shape of a triangle. The sleeves are wide and embroidered, and the short sleeve jacket is made of velvet cloth and is embroidered with silk thread and reeds.

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Thob of Bethlehem

5 –  Dajani Thob: It is famous for the Beit Dajan, Ramleh and Ramallah areas. Palestinian women in the coast wore this thob extensively in Majdal (Ashkelon), Gaza, Ashdod and Beit Dajan (near Jaffa). This dress is wrapped and characterized by a large number of square drawings inside which lie the symbol of the old mythical shape. This dress tends to be white and red in color. It is of two types: narrow sleeves and wide sleeves.

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Dajani Thob

6 – Romi Thob: The fabric of the famous Ramallah traditional dress is woven with hand pockets, and the women wore their white linen cloth for the summer. The cloth itself was dyed in black, and the winter clothes were embroidered from it. It is stitched in organized patterns and geometric shapes that loom symmetric when assembled in an integrated unit. Women used traditional geometric shapes mainly in embroidery.

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Romi Thob, Ramallah
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Romi thob, Ramallah. By Fadi Jaber

7 – Al-Ekhdari thob: It is made of black silk and its decoration is derived from the Palestinian environment in the spring and is famous throughout the villages of Hebron.

8 – Jerusalem Thob:  This particular dress is made of black silk and embroidered and is special to the Jerusalem area. It is characterized by the fact that it is the most beautiful dress that has been maintained through all the times that passed through Jerusalem. On the chest, there is a collar of the Canaanite queens. On the sides, the method of the crucifixion appears since the days of the Crusader rule, and the crescent and the Quranic verses appear as proof of the return of Jerusalem to Arab Islamic rule. In general, the effects of the Nakba appear on the Palestinian dress. Sadness and nostalgia are manifested through colors, i.e the disappearance of bright colors, indicating that the appearance of embroidery of the machine is evidence of women’s lack of interest in embroidery and the poor economic situation.

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Jerusalem Thob

9 – Thob of Jerico: The dress of Jericho, the oldest of the cities of the earth, boasts embroidery along the dress, which extends to more than eight arms and has several layers, the headdress is a red kaffiyeh or a handkerchief shaped like a league.

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Thob of Jerico. By ma’an news agency

10 – Thob of Nablus: As for the Nablus dress, it was similar to the one used in Damascus, perhaps because of the commercial nature of the city and its commercial relations in Damascus and Aleppo. The women wore a long black cloak and a cloth covering their faces, and perhaps this resemblance was one of the reasons for naming Nablus, Damascus Minor. On the other hand, the dress in the countryside of Nablus was rich in color and embroidery. For example, the dress of Rafidia is important because it is made of linen and silk yarn, dates back to 1930, and features red and green lines along with the green tie with the distinctive shawl of the northern Nablus area.

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Thob of Nablus made by Satin damask.

Along with the thob, women wear a headdress. The women in each region had distinctive headdresses, often embellished with gold and silver coins from their bridewealth money. The more coins, the greater the
wealth and prestige of its owner. For example, in Bethlehem, Lifta and Ain Karm (District of Jerusalem), and Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, women wear Sha’weh, a distinctive conical hat “shaped rather like an upturned flower pot”, worn only by married women.

In Ramallah, women wear Smadeh an embroidered cap with a stiff padded rim. A row of coins,
tightly placed against another, is placed around the top of the rim. However, in Hebron, women wear Araqiyyeh. 

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Palestinian Headdress

Embroidered Palestinian dresses .. From tradition to modernity and creativity

The Palestinian dress may have been out of wedlock for a short time, but it has come back strongly in the past ten years, and in many ways, to see different varieties of modernity on clothes and ornaments by embroidering with traditional engravings.

Since the first Intifada, there has been a struggle of another kind, namely, the defense of heritage. The Palestinian women wear the Palestinian dress on all occasions and even in the demonstrations.

“We must practice the heritage so that it remains our property,” Maha Al-Sakka, told “Quds Press” 

In recent times, the fashion of modern clothing has been noticeable by purchasing any piece of jewelry in the market and embroidering parts of it, such as buying a black dress and choosing to put it in an elaborate line of art as well as embellishments. The modern thob is gaining more recognition nowadays and it’s competing with modern clothes. 

What young women do on modern ready-made clothes is a very beautiful art because its purpose is to preserve the Palestinian heritage and authenticity. But this modernization must take into account the preservation of the authenticity of the decoration taken from our old dresses to preserve identity, It must be kept so as not to distort the idea and grandeur of our grandmother’s dresses.

Palestinians are taking the traditional embroidery into modernity by applying the traditional embroidery on new dresses and different items such as bags, belts, pants, shoes, rings, blouses, and even purses and wallets.

These are the types of thob, traditional dress, in Palestine and how it’s changing nowadays. Which one do you prefer the most? Tell us in a comment below!

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