Athwab Bilad El Sham
Embroidery, patchwork, appliqué and dyeing make one
of the most important home craft industries for town, peasant, semi nomadic and
even Bedouin women living in small towns, villages or in the desert of Bilad El
Sham. The tradition of embroidery in the Middle East goes back hundreds of years
where women passed on their skills from one generation to the next.
Embroidery with its different motifs and colors
served to emphasize the identity of women living in different villages within a
region and different regions within the same country, or the characteristics of
particular ethnic groups such as those living in the Qalamoun, Horan, Tel Mnin,
es Suchne, Saraqeb, Khan Sheikhun, or other regions within Syria.
The various types of stitches used in Syrian
embroidery are cross stitch, satin stitch, couching or inlay stitch, running
stitch, fishbone stitch, featherstitch, chain stitch, herringbone stitch and
The garment of women in Syria (Thob) is made of dark
cotton with triangular sleeves. Such dresses are embroidered round the
neck, at the chest and the sides. They can also be decorated with a patchwork
materials in various colors and embroideries. Another dress has straight sleeves
and is made of black sateen. As the dress is very long it is held together by a
belt woven from red and black wool or cotton. The woven belt is wound around the
waist several times and is particularly popular for enhancing the black dress.
Women's coat is made of materials in dark colors
with wide sleeves and side slits. The neckline down to the chest is ornamented
with colorful appliqué work. These coats are bought in the suq. The silk
kaftan is worn by wealthy women over the dress. This coat was replaced by a short
jacket with tight sleeves reaching to the waist and made of blue woolen cloth
and decorated on the inside with colored appliqué work.
On the head women wrap a large silk head cloth
Shambar that is held in place by a headband consisting of a smaller and thinner
scarf called Asbeh or Mandil that is folded diagonally. The veil is about 3
meters long and about 40 cm wide and made of fine transparent silk or cotton
Some of the veils are in two colors. The scarf is
made of a red silk fabric about 40 cm wide. Two red strips are sewn together
with decorative stitching and dyed black. The ends of the scarf are decorated
with fringes and tassels, and simple embroidery. Veils of real red silk (Shambar
ahmar) were owned by rich women and were often embroidered with spangles and
glass beads and decorated with woven fringes and silk tassels.
Men wore a white, shirt like garment made of cotton.
A festive garment is usually ornamented with blue, red and black embroidery
round the neck and at the chest. Underneath the shirt men usually wore a pant (shirwal)
made of colored or undyed cotton fabric. Pants are almost always bought ready
made in the suq.
Coats are important garment for men and are usually
ready made. Coats are open at the front, it is wide, straight half sleeves are
split so that the wing sleeves of the shirt can be pulled through. The coat is
worn over the shirt and is made of various light weight fabrics. The sleeves,
neck opening and front are decorated with cord couching.
The cloak is man's most important garment. It is
made of various light-weight silk, artificial silk or mixed silk or cotton
fabrics. The cloak is made of two straight widths fabric sewn together. It is
open at the front and can be fastened with two cords. The neck and shoulder
seams have narrow embroidery or cord couching. Another type of abaye is
made of wool with brown and white vertical stripes.
A light weight abaye, made of light colors
for the summer is called bisht. It is made of coarse undyed sheep's wool,
goat or camel hair with white-brown or white-black vertical stripes with wool
embroidery at the neck and seams.
The winter coat (farwa) is made of sheep skin
lining and of dark, mostly black coarse cotton or cloth, and decorated with
colored appliqué work or cord couching.
The headdress of the men varies from a pure white
scarf of fine cotton to a scarf of silk with long fringe, often with little
tassels wrapped around the head to a headscarf of brownish yellow wool. very
popular are scarves made of blue or violet silk with red threads worked into it.
The Head rope (agal)
The agal is usually placed on the headdress
(hatta) to hold
it in place. Under the hatta, men usually wear a hat or taqiyye
Under the hatta men usually wear a
hat (taqiyye) to hold the hatta in place.
The Druzes of Syria and Lebanon are a very
homogeneous population. Their costumes are of particular attention due to their
seclusion in villages in the mountains. To this day the Druzes have very largely
retained the characteristics of their costume, although the canon of dress has
been subject to change in urban areas. The following is elements of men and
Woman's costume include long shirt (kamis),
coat-like over-garment (kumbaz), baggy breeches (shintyan), waistcoat with wide
split sleeves (damir), veil (futa), hat (tarbush), belt (hizam), veil
Men's costumes include short shirt (kamis),
waistcoat (jubbe), waistcoat without sleeves (sidriyye), fabric belt
coat-like over garment (kumbaz), wide cloak (abaye), winter coat with fur lining
(farwa), little cap (takiyye), head cloth (kufiyye or hatta), head rope
and turban (laffe).
The so called Druze hat (tarbush) is made of felt
and trimmed with gold coins, and is similar to the hats of other villages in the
surrounding area. Formerly a tall conical tube shaped headpiece made of silver
or copper called tantur was worn. In Lebanon the tantur had a long tradition of
being worn by Druze and Maronite women. It was worn by the bride as a sign of
her married status.
Men's and women's coats made of Ikat fabric woven in
Aleppo. The ikat fabric was also woven in Homs until the 1950s. Silk satin used
for appliqué' on women's coats in Qalaat Samaan was also woven in Aleppo
Dress and veil from Hama. The patterns are very
geometrical and executed in different techniques
The dresses from Saraqeb are characterized by their
large surfaces of red embroidery on black cotton fabric with finely worked
seems. The motifs are geometrical and resemble the embroidery motifs in the
villages of Chan Scheichun and Magharet en-Numaan.
Is famous for its festive dresses made of black silk
satin fabric embroidered with red silk thread. The embroidery is dense and in
cross stitch. The motifs embroidered on these dresses of palms, cypresses, trees
of life and amulet triangles reflects the natural surroundings in the oasis of
es Suchne. Due to the marriage links between the villages of es Suchne and Sfire,
the tradition of embroidery and motifs is also used in Sfire.
Festive dresses from the Qalamoun area.
Women's coats from the Qalamoun (Tell Mnin and
Quteife) are characterized by a wide variety of different type of dress. The
motifs embroidered on these dresses consists of free flowing floral patterns on
the sleeves and skirt forming stylized trees of life, cypresses, vases of
flowers and geometric patterns. The embroidery is with bright silk thread and
gold and silver lame that show up effectively against the dark brown, fiery red
or dark green fabric used for dresses and against the black cotton material used
for coats and jackets.
The embroidery stitches on the dresses of this area
include chain stitch, couching stitch, satin stitch, hem stitch, herringbone
stitch, cross stitch and half-cross stitch.
Although the cut of the coats in this area is
traditional, the fabric and embroidery might be different, using different
techniques depending on the preferences of the particular village.
A woman's coat with cross stitch embroidery
emphasized on the chest and sleeves with decorated seams. The inner facing is
decorated with appliqué work in contrasting atlas silks. The silk satin used
for the appliqué is woven in Aleppo. Like other areas, women of Qalaat Samaan
find their inspiration for patterns from their surroundings. The embroidery on
these coats is in cross stitch with colored silk thread.
Women's coats from this area differ from other areas
by being considerably wider at the bottom. The embroidery decorations of the
coats are concentrated on the upper opening and the facings. The whole surface
of the triangular patterned areas of the two facings is covered with embroidery.