With love, from Palestine

Guess what I received for Id this year?

Some lovely, fragrant za’atar (a herb mix), and some absolutely, stunning, gorgeous, traditional handicrafts, all the way from occupied Palestine, courtesy my friend, Erab. Go on, have a look…

Cross stitch embroidered cushion cover

Bag with cross stitch embroidery

Cross-stitch embroidery or tatreez was once a traditional, home-based craft for Palestinian women, much like the embroidery from the Kutch region of India. An exclusively female artistic tradition, embroidery has been a key feature of traditional Palestinian costumes for hundreds of years. Regional variations in the embroidery reflected the heritage, ancestry, and affiliations of the wearer, as well the region he/she belonged to. The formation of the state of Israel all but led to the disappearance of this craft.

Traditionally, the embroidery was only done on various items of clothing, but today, tatreez is done on bags, cushion covers, mobile pouches, purses, wall hangings, etc. The embroidery, as can be seen from the photographs above, are done on black cloth, with red being the dominant thread used. Earlier, the threads used to be dyed with colours extracted from fruits and vegetables, but have now been replaced with synthetically dyed thread.

I first saw tatreez on a bag that Erab had, and was totally blown away by the craft. Though I was not a stranger to the beauty of cross-stitch (having seen my maternal grandmother, aunts, and mother at it), tatreez was striking in appearance, quality and technique. The density of the stitches and the abstract geometrical squares and triangles elevated the craft to another level altogether. I can’t believe that I now own such exquisite pieces myself. :-D

But wait, this is not all that Erab sent me. She also sent me some lovely hand-painted Palestinian ceramic coasters made in Jerusalem.

The first time I saw an exhibit of Palestinian pottery was at a market in Greenwich, London. I could only afford to buy a plate, even though the temptation to loot buy the entire shop was overwhelming. Just as red is the overwhelming colour for the tatreez, blue is the predominant colour Palestinian ceramics.

It is two years to the day, since I last saw Erab. Though we have kept in touch through phone calls, Skype calls, FB, etc., it has not been the same. But, when I opened the packet that she sent, the fragrance of the za’atar wiped out the distance, the years. The aroma brought back memories from another time. Of breakfasting on labneh (yoghurt) sprinkled with za’atar and olive oil, and some khubz (like a chapati) with Erab. Of assignments, laughter, gossip, some tears. Of wonderful times spent with wonderful friends.

Shukran jazeeran, ya Erab :-)

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16 thoughts on “With love, from Palestine

    • Well, Anu, you could visit Palestine, make friends with somethere and then receive gifts from that person. Or you could send a post card via postcrossing and initiate the whole process ;-)

  1. Such a heartening testimony to your friendship sans borders. Wonderful. These are the emotions, pure and unadulterated that exhorts us to rekindle our own memories with friends whom we bid adieu long ago on the road to life, yet the warmth of which keeps us safe and sane. I am inspired to send gifts to my friends now. :)

  2. My dearest Sudha, I am waiting for your visit to occupied Palestine:), then you will enjoy a lot exploring our wonderful heritage and culture. Our embroidery, and all traditional handicrafts are good representation of us, of Palestinians. Despite of the pain and suffering caused by the Isreali occupation, Palestinians value life and happiness. We wish for ourselves and others and joyful life similar to the colourful handicrafts we produce.

    • Some amount of similarity exists, but the technique and colours used, particularly for the tatreez is quite different. As for the ceramics, the tile with the deer design is quite similiar to the work of the ceramic artists from Jaipur.

    • Welcome here, a.m’rad, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I love Palestinian embroidery too and am looking forward to visiting this country and picking up more pieces for myself.

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