Bedouin Traditional ClothingThe term "Bedouin" (from the Arabic "Bedu" - "the desert dwellers") can be used to refer to a range of people. Very loosely it can refer to any nomads of Arabia, the Levant and North Africa. It can be limited to just nomads of Arab decent, or even just those who bred camels. These days those who live a settled life still identify as Bedouin - even though their lifestyle is that of a business man, engineer or soldier.
Bedouin - Women
Bedouin woman (1909)
When cold or wet a sleeveless coat or mantle (aba) is wrapped over the top and occasionally over the head.
Bedouin women in Northern Palestine, Jordon and Syria wore a blue or black thobe or shirsh with long tight sleeves and a long neck opening. Decoration includes embroidery along the seams, above the hem and around the neck or four or five horizontal lines embroidered bands above the hem.
Bedouin woman (1926)
Bedouin women in Southern Palestine wore a similar shaped, but more voluminous, light blue or black dress (thobe) with winged sleeves. These sleeves narrowed by the 1960s. From the 1930s they also included cross stitched embroidery but in a different style to the villagers. The embroidery is usally red for women and blue for unmarried girls. Brightly coloured and patterned dresses (fustan) were worn under the overdresses.
Unmarried women wear a bag like hatta (the underlying fabric is like the men's kufeya but worn without and agal). Married women fold the square into a band and wear it around the head.
Women wear a range of jewellery that represents the family's wealth - but also has perceived protective qualities. For instance triangles (representing hands) or eyes avert the evil eye. Hijab (or hirz) - silver cylinders containing verses of the Koran - protect against accidents and scorpion stings. Jewellery includes necklaces, rings, anklets and bracelets. The anklets and bracelets are often hollow and filled with stones to make noise.
Thobe (Kuwait museum)
Bedouin women in southern Arabia are unveiled. In the north they are veiled with a range of masks. In the Levant they again go unveiled with just their hair covered by dark blue or black veils. The shambar is a tube that encloses the head and neck. In the Sinai desert the burqas are formed by rows of coins.
While elsewhere unmarried Bedouin girls wear hattah like a bag, married women roll it like a headband.
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Updated by JEWEL