The women in Beit Sahour have been embroidering for centuries. Samples of Palestinian embroidery can be found as far back as the nineteenth century. Locally, the skills were passed on to young girls by their grandmothers and, as such, this profession has become a real art with very individual character.
Traditional women’s costumes in Palestine, the origin of which goes back more than 4000 years, are still much in use in the area, especially in nearby villages. They are distinguished mainly by the unique use of embroidery and fine needlework, which has fascinated women in both the Orient and the West. Tourists frequently buy embroidered clothing, or items such as embroidered handkerchiefs, bed covers, runners, and tablecloths. High prices are normally paid because of the skill and time involved.
The main Palestinian traditional garment is a full-length, flowing dress with a special head-cover. The Qabbeh (chest-panel) is embroidered with gold and silk threads, in various geometrical designs, often specific and unique to each village or town. On the sleeves, and on both sides of the dress, there are triangular pieces embroidered in bright red or green. Over the head a tarbi’a (veil) is placed to cover the shoulders and part of the back. Around the waist, a cashmere or wool shawl can be tied as a belt and a taksireh (short jacket) can be worn over the dress. For everyday use, these garments are embroidered with silk, but for feasts or special occasions gold or silver threads are used. In winter, women often wear a short, woven, wool overcoat striped in red and black. For everyday life, women tie the pointed sleeves at the back, enabling them to carry on with their daily tasks more easily. The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society in Beit Sahour was established in 1981, in order to preserve and develop these local, handicraft skills.