AMMAN – Palestinian refugee Um Zeid spends her days at home in the sprawling Baqaa camp in Jordan sewing colorful dresses which gives her an income and keeps tradition alive.
“At first, this was a hobby, because I love wearing the Palestinian thobe (dress), but it has since become my profession,” she said.
The mother of seven works with five other women hand-sewing the dresses from brightly colored thread. They sell to customers in fashionable parts of the city for 150-700 dinars ($200-990) a piece.
The 47-year-old Palestinian woman who was born in the camp on the edge of Amman recalls how her parents left their village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank when Israel took the territory during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
“It’s important to me that our heritage is not lost. I love seeing Palestinian heritage on all people, on every Palestinian woman, whether here or abroad,” she said.
Many of Jordan’s population are descendants of Palestinian refugees whose families left after the creation of Israel in 1948 and cling to their roots in villages and towns that are now in present-day Israel or the Palestinian territories.
Nemat Saleh, who heads the Hanouneh Society for Popular Culture, where embroidered dresses are worn in dances and festivals to revive Palestinian folklore, says the patterns and colors of the robes are unique to each village.
“Our attire is unique, and despite the small size of Palestine, there is great variety in the dresses,” Saleh said.
Um Nayef, 74, another refugee in the camp, says wearing traditional dress, which many of the younger generation no longer do, identifies who she is and makes her feel proud.
“We can be identified through the Palestinian attire, and this is something we are very proud of … when we see our sons and daughters wearing this, it makes us very proud,” she said.