Palestinian Heritage Foundation 

Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
    Volume 9, No. 2                              August 2003    

نشرة مؤسسة التراث الفلسطيني

Amre Mousa to Address PHF on 16th Anniversary 

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation will celebrate its sixteenth anniversary on Saturday, September 13, 2003. On this special day, the Foundation and the Arab-American community will honor Ambassador Clovis Maksoud, former Arab League ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, and head of the Department of the Global South at the American University in Washington DC. 

This special evening will coincide with the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Several of Dr. Maksoud’s friends will be attending the event to honor him, including Professor Edward Said, Farid Abboud, ambassador of Lebanon to the United States, Dr. Ziad Asali, President of American Task Force for Palestine (ATFP), Congresswoman Rose Mary Oakar, President of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other friends of Dr. Maksoud. 

Mr. Amre Mousa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States , a close friend of ambassador Maksoud, will give the keynote address on that occasion. The Palestinian Heritage Foundation is proud to host such distinguished guests who will make the honoring of Clovis Maksoud a memorable event.


PHF at the Potomac Community Center in Washington DC 

“THESE STITCHES SPEAK” Presented at “Chai -Time”  Bano Makhdoom, Washington DC. On Sunday, May 11th, Hanan and Farah Munnayer were guest speakers at ” Chai-Time” a monthly forum organized by an enthusiastic group of Washingtonians. Started three years ago and spear headed by Bano and Rashid Makhdoom, the group has benefited from talks over tea, by experts published in their fields. 

This Mother’s Day gathering was no exception. An enthralled audience listened, as Hanan spun an intricate web of facts and shed light on a unique collection of Palestinian embroideries. The historical Palestinian dresses and intricate embroideries were displayed on one side. Their beauty was recaptured in the show of slides.  

Hanan and Farah , both pharmaceutical scientists , have a passion for preserving the heritage of the Palestinian stitches. Their collection of antique embroideries ‘spans almost a century from the 1860’s to the 1940’s and represents every stylish tradition they say, that once was Palestine.’ The slide show supports the depth of historical research that Hanan has put in over the last sixteen years. Embroideries are studied by the periods of history, by geographical area, by customs local to different tribes and villages and by style.  The use of color, dyeing and weaving techniques, availability of material all of which contribute to a uniqueness of the dresses displayed. Antique Palestinian embroideries are made on flax or linen. Those from Egypt are mostly on cotton. The red dye special to Palestinian embroideries is obtained by crushing sea shells found in the area. 

The audience at Chai Time was in for a special treat when , Hanan’s daughter, Randa, modeled the traditional Malak dress from Bethlehem. ‘ These generally have long triangular sleeves. The embroidered panels include a square chest piece, and symmetrical side panels.’ Hanan fixed a traditional headdress on her, the elongated cap of which is shaped similar to those shown in the slides of Mesopotamian stone carvings.  

Symbols for the embroideries have also evolved through the ages. Young girls as they prepared for their marriages would set about embroidering dresses for their trousseau. Ripples of smiles and nodding heads around the room, as Hanan mentions this. Girls in the developing world still keep embroidery traditions alive by learning to prepare for their trousseau. 

In nineteenth century Palestine, three to eight dresses would evolve over a long period. By herself, a girl could take a year to complete one costume. As travel was limited, traditional designs were passed on from generation to generation, identifying families, tribes, traditions, as well as geographical areas. Symbols from nature, the palm trunk in the hills north of Jerusalem, the cypress in the low lying areas, or from Islamic prayer carpets discovered in Egypt , dating to the eighth century, all create a uniqueness of design and workmanship.  The most elegant of the Palestinian embroideries is attributed to the metallic threads used in the Bethlehem couching stitch, with medallions in the back, sometimes embroidered on Syrian silk. 

Farah and Hanan were applauded for the splendid presentation and for the depth and scope of information shared. ‘These stitches’ with all their intricacy and finery, really did ‘speak’, to an absorbed audience, on a warm Sunday afternoon at Chai-time.  For information on antique Palestinian embroideries visit


PHF at Rutgers and Saint Francis Palestine Cultural Day 

During February 2003, the Palestinian Heritage Foundation participated in the Palestine Solidarity Committee’s activities at Rutgers University campus. The afternoon program included Palestinian music, dabkeh dance, poetry reading, and a costume show of traditional Palestinian dresses representing all areas of Palestine. PHF display included contemporary embroidery pillows and large photos of girls wearing traditional dresses taken at PHF functions. Over hundred fifty students and family members attended the program that included Arabic food that complemented the cultural event. 

Late March 2003, selections of PHF collection was on display at another cultural function at Saint Francis College on Long Island, New York. The display included several dresses and embroidered pillows and lasted for three days. Several hundred students attended the event.   


Hanan talks at the Princeton Middle East Society 

On Sunday, May 18, 2003 Hanan was the keynote speaker at the monthly meeting of the Princeton Middle East Society at Princeton, New Jersey. The Society is an organization of some 150 Americans most of whom have lived or traveled in the Middle East. The event was attended by more than fifty people including several who are guests of the Society. Hanan Munayyer, a scientist with a scrupulous concern for facts, presented a series of slides showing the ancient – in many cases prehistoric – roots of Palestinian dress design and embroidery. 

Two young women modeled some of the spectacular costumes from the Bethlehem and Jaffa regions on display. The outfits included appropriate headdress and jewelry. Other dresses from Ramallah and Asduud along with many old and contemporary pillowcases were on display. Mrs. Munayyer also identified some items brought by the audience, including an antique embroidered linen bag from Ramallah and a dress from the Sarakeb village in Syria.

The Munayyer family has dedicated itself to preserving the distinctive dresses and textiles made by women from various parts of Palestine in the face of dispossession of the indigenous population and the hybridization of designs in the last thirty years. They hope to establish a museum in Washington DC, to preserve and display this precious collection. The audience at the Princeton event, which included several experts in Middle Eastern art, was most interested and impressed by the beauty of the embroidery and the fascinating description of its origin. 

In a thank you letter to the Foundation the Society wrote: Thank you so much for coming to Princeton and giving us a wonderful afternoon. Everyone seemed absolutely fascinated and very complimentary. I am so glad that you decided to bring the slides as they added great depth and interest to your talk. You made of our annual meeting a really great occasion and we all thank you for the effort you made to bring this beautiful exhibit to Princeton.   


Mrs. Sheridan Collins Donates Dresses to PHF 

Mrs. Sheridan Collins of Virginia recently donated three antique dresses to the Foundation. Two of the dresses are from the Majdal and Asduud area in Palestine, and the third is from Syria. The Palestinian Heritage Foundation would like to thank Mrs. Collins for her generosity and kindness.


Letters to PHF…….. 

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Munayyer, My name is Cynthia Horne, from Bakersfield, California. I spoke with Mr. Munayyer a few years back about my Palestinian embroidery habit, and Mrs. Munayyer has corresponded with me via e-mail about various specifics with the embroidery. Your research and encouragement has truly been a blessing. I teach Palestinian embroidery (formally through a non-profit historical society and informally to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen) and frequently tell the inspirational story of the beginnings of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. It is truly remarkable. Today I found your website again. (It was new to me, but we have been off-line for a bit.) It mentions that at one time there was a 70 minute video tape. I have purchased several of the 35 minute videos, both as gifts and a teaching tool. 

As I am always on the lookout for more information and more embroidery patterns, is the 70 minute video still available? Also, are there any more photos of the collection available? It would also be helpful if I could get some more bibliographical info. For example, in the 35 minute video there is a Syrian statue that shows the beginnings of the Bethlehem-style chest panel. I would love to know the name of the statue and where it is currently housed. Also, there was a wooden carving showing the Bethlehem style headpiece shape. 

It is difficult in this hectic world to convince people that finding the time for embroidery is a worthwhile pursuit, but I am still trying. The Palestinian style is extremely striking and a soothing activity after a busy day. “Traditional” European-style, or even Scandinavian, embroidery tends to be somewhat smaller stitches (sometimes 22-32 per inch) with more focus on absolute perfection, and more stress producing. I can say this from experience as I had a Danish grandaunt. She also loved to knit, and the family used to tease her. They claimed that she ripped out more than she knitted in! I am still working on various Palestinian techniques. 

I believe that no matter how you try, while you are working on a form that is not native to you, a bit of your personal embroidery background escapes into your work. My cross stitches and composition skills seem to be fine, but incorporating the couching is still difficult for me. My applique, although attractive, seems to be a bit too precise. I always show pictures of embroidery by real Palestinians when I teach so that students can get a truer feeling for the work, along with my own work, which they can touch and feel. The goal is, of course, to inspire them enough to pick up needle & thread and do some small bit of work while they watch (or more accurately listen) to their TVs at home. Any more info you can provide me with will be truly appreciated. Thank you again, Cynthia Horne

This is to specially thank you both and your lovely daughter for taking out time from your busy schedules to be guest speakers for the ‘Chai Time’ program on Sunday. We specially appreciate your driving down from New Jersey. We admire the depth and scope of your historical research. ‘These stitches’ with all their intricacy and finery, really did ‘speak’ to an absorbed and enthralled audience. It was a learning experience for all of us. The display of the beautiful antique pieces further enhanced your wonderful collection of slides. Thank you again for a beautiful presentation.