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Thob: Traditional Dress in Palestine

What Palestinian women wear is mainly determined by their religious beliefs.Christian women wear modest western clothing, and Muslim women may wear Hijab and Abaya, but may also just dress modestly.

It was not always like this though.

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, and a knowledgeable observer could glean such information from the fabric, colors, cut, and embroidery motifs (or lack thereof) in a given woman's apparel.

Here are examples of different Thobs from two regions in Palestine: Ramallah and Hebron.
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Traditional%20dress%201.jpgThob from Hebron Traditional%20dress%202.jpgThob from Ramallah
Headdress also varied by regions. Below is an example of an Iraqiyyeh, women’s headdress from Hebron. The coins attached on the cap are part of the girl’s dowry. The iraqiyyeh has two densely embroidered bands which the woman braids with her hair when wearing the headdress.

Iraqiyyeh.jpg

In the Bethlehem area(Beit Sahour included), the traditional dress is called Thob al Malak, translates to the dress of an angle.

Thob%20al%20Malak.jpg

Thob al Malak is made of striped velvet and embroidered in the coaching stitch. The motifs include the "flower pot" on the chest panel while the clock motif adorns the side and bottom back panels.

The headdress that went with Thob al Malak is called the Shatweh.

Shatweh.jpg

Today, the traditional dress is worn mainly by village women, and some brides when they choose to. However, there is my grandmother and some other ninety year old women, who still choose to wear their Thob proudly.

Comments (13)

Barb Cabot:

Candi, I want to thank you for this historical and cultural journey you are taking your readers on through Palestine. I love seeing traditional "dress" from countries. The Palestinian traditional clothing is rich, colorful and beautiful. I love all the elaborate patterns, textures and color of the embroidery, weaving etc. and the coins...very lovely. I'm learning alot and am sending your blog to friends that I know would love it. Thank you.

Great post - this is so interesting. So does your grandmother wear a Thob everyday? I really like the Thob al Malak - great colors and very elegant.

Barb, thank you for you comments and neat words.

Annie, yes, my grandmother(mother's side) is ninety some years old(hard to know exactly, since they did not keep records back then), but she's always worn a Thob everyday, and she is not willing t change that.

Gorgeous! I had never heard of the thob before. So I take it it was worn by both Christian and Muslim women?

Chiocciola, I too think these dresses are so pretty. I've worn one for very short period of time in one of my cousin's wedding, they are so heavy, I felt hot.
And yes, as far as I know, they used to be worn by both religions, maybe in slightly different forms though.

Candi, I remember writing a comment to this entry but apparently it got lost in cyberspace. It was fascinating to read. The Thobs are gorgeous; love the patterns and the vivid colors.

sandrac:

These thobs look really lovely, so rich and colourful. I can imagine a very ornate version might get very hot, but perhaps there are lighter-weight versions (made of lighter fabrics) as well?

I love the coins in the headdress and it's interesting to read the origins of what I thought were purely decorative!

Maria, thanks for your comment. Yeah cyperspace sometimes eats our comments.

Sandra, I am not sure that there is a lighter version of this. However, I remember my grandma always wearing the older worn out thobs in the summer, because she said they get lighter after get worn out.

Interesting that the clothing could reflect so much information about a woman. They must be really hot to wear in the summertime. The clothing is so beautiful and detailed.

rana:

i wanted to know where in the states or online i can find a place that sells these traditional dresses because my brothers wedding is coming up i need one indeed

Rana,
Thanks for stopping by. I am not exactly sure where you are, some of the bug cities with large Palestinian population have stores and tailors that could have what you are looking for. I found this website that sells some thobs and other Palestinian handcrafts online.

http://www.tatreez-embroidery.com/

Faraj:

This is a very nice presentation into traditional Palestinian dress. I am from the village Beit Hanina and the thob of Ramallah resembles the theab of Beit Hanina very much. I have always been very curious to lean about why my mother wore her thob and iwka(headdress) to henna's and even weddings sometimes. The coins on her iwka are mostly from the British Empire, 1893-1930 or so. Thanks for this post:)

Kate:

Thanks for sharing those, the work that goes into the embroidery. I love to see any traditional costume.

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