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Palestinian embroidery represents social, cultural identity on UNESCO list

Palestinians praise the registration of embroidery on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List after Israeli attempts to attribute the traditional embroidered Palestinian dress to themselves.
Palestinian university students wearing traditional embroidered dresses take part in an event entitled "Don't Steal Our Heritage" in Gaza City, on Dec. 16, 2021.

RAMALLAH, Palestine — On Dec. 19, the Palestinian Museum opened its doors to visitors interested in seeing a collection of traditional Palestinian dresses embroidered with silk that were recently reclaimed and relocated from Washington to Palestine.

The 1986 collection dates back to when a Palestinian man gathered the traditional dresses by moving them to Washington to showcase them temporarily. Due to political circumstances and out of fear of Israeli confiscation, he could not get them back to Palestine. The collection features the dresses of women who were forcibly displaced from their Palestinian homeland during the 1948 war, and each dress represents the embroidery pattern of a certain Palestinian area.

According to the curator of the museum collection, Bahaa al-Jaaba, these dresses have historical value as they document details of Palestinian outfits in the original land of refugees, which constitutes part of Palestinian heritage and the traditional uniform related to embroidered dresses.

The collection was showcased with embroidered shawls and silver accessories. Jaaba told Al-Monitor, “Studying these dresses not only grants us historical documentation of the traditional Palestinian clothes, but it also fills us in on the social and cultural context of the dresses. Some are worn on happy occasions, while others are associated with sadness.”

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