Traditional Costumes

Foreign travelers to Palestine in late 19th and early 20th centuries often commented on the rich variety of costumes among the Palestinian people, and particularly among the fellaheen or village women.

Until the 1940s, a woman’s economic status, whether married or single, and the town
or area they were from could be deciphered by most Palestinian women by the type of cloth, colors, cut, and embroidery motifs, or lack thereof, used for the dress.

Today, Palestinian embroidery and costume continue to be produced in new forms and
worn alongside Islamic and Western fashions.


Basic dress

  • Thob: Loose-fitting robe with sleeves, the cut varying by region.
  • Qabbeh: Square chest panel of the thob, often decorated. A highly decorated qabbeh could be a family heirloom, handed down from mother to daughter and used on a several dresses.
  • Diyal: Brocaded back hem panel on thobs from Bethlehem.
  • Shinyar: Lower back panel of the thob, decorated in some regions.
  • Libas or Shirwal: Pants or trousers.
  • Taqsireh: Short embroidered jacket worn by the women of Bethlehem on festive occasions. The gold couching of the jackets often matched the dress. Simpler jackets were used over everyday dresses. The name is derived from the Arabic verb “to shorten”
  • Jubbeh: Jacket, worn by men and women.
  • Jillayeh: Embroidered jubbeh.
  • Shambar: Large veil common to theHebron area and southernPalestine.


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.

Sha’weh: A distinctive conical hat “shaped rather like an upturned flower
pot,” worn only by married women and used mainly in Bethlehem, Lifta and
Ain Karm (District of Jerusalem), and Beit Jala and Beit Sahur (Bethlehem
District) It is belived that these hats, often associated with women of King
Arthur’s court, were brought by the Crusaders back to Europe after they had
seen these hats on Levantine women.

Smadeh: Worn in Ramallah, an embroidered cap with a stiff padded rim. A row of coins,
tightly placed against another, is placed around the top of the rim. Additional
coins might be sewn to the upper part or attached to narrow, embroidered bands.
As with the other women’s head-dresses, the smadeh represented the wearers
bridal wealth, and acted as an important cash reserve. Sometimes you see a gap
in the row of coins and you guess that that a doctor’s bill has had to be paid,
or the husband in America has failed to send money.

Araqiyyeh: Worn in Hebron. The words araqiyyeh and taqiyyeh have been used since the Middle Ages in the Arab world to denote small, close-fitting head-caps, usually of cotton, worn by both genders. The original purpose was to absorb sweat (in Arabic:
“araq”). In the Hebron area, araqiyyeh came to denote the embroidered cap with a pointed top a married women would wear over her taqiyyeh. During her engagement period a woman of the Hebron area would sew and embroider her araqiyyeh and embellish the rim with coins from her bridal money. The first time she would wear her araqiyyeh would be on her wedding day.

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