Talking Textiles

Today I looked at, and bought a Keffiyah for my son Jinda.

I love the fabric, and I love the weave and color. When I'm in Dubai and have more time I will look at them again.

I wanted to know more about it and I found this great article  by Rebecca Fudulah from the Palestine Monitor.

"Originating in ancient Mesopotamia, the Keffiyah was popular among Arab men who used it to protect their face, head, and neck from the elements of nature. The traditional pattern, which is still used today in Palestine and other Arab Nations, was modeled after fishing nets and ears of grain. During the Arab Revolt in the 1930s, the keffiyah became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and in the 1980s Yasser Arafat made the keffiyah a globally recognized symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Today, cheaper imports of the keffiyah from China threaten an already troubled industry. Rebecca Fudala takes a look inside the last keffiyah factory in Palestine.

Keffiyah’s like these are common throughout the West Bank and all around the world. Selling for a fraction of usual prices, these Chinese made scarves are endangering the local industry and slowly erasing a Palestinian tradition. It’s no coincidence that production of the Palestinian made keffiyah took its sharpest fall in 2001, just one year after the Chinese-made kuffiyah entered the Palestinian market.

The Herbawi Textile Factory was opened in 1961 by Yasser Herbawi. It is located in Hebron, just a 10 minute walk from the city center.

At nearly 80 years old, Yasser Herbawi (not pictured) makes it to the factory for only a few hours each morning. He has left most of the work to his two sons, Izzat and Jodeh (left and centre), and life long friend, Abid Keraki (right).


In 2000, there were over 120 textile factories scattered across the West Bank, now only the Herbawi Factory remains.

The Herbawi Textile Factory has 16 machines. In 1990 all 16 machines were functioning, making 750 keffiyahs a day. Today, only two machines are used, making a mere 300 keffiyahs per week.

Waiting to be shipped out, newly made keffiyahs line the shelves inside the textile factory. 10 cities in the West Bank still sell the Palestinian made keffiyah, including Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nablus.

Of the two working machines, one weaves the traditional black and white pattern commonly associated with Yasser Arafat.


The other machine was weaving a red and white pattern which is traditionally worn by respected, elderly men in society.

Despite the world-wide popularity of the keffiyah as a fashion accessory, pieces of torn and tattered keffiyahs blanket dusty, unused machines in the Herbawi factory, symbolising their dwindling business. While Izzat Herbawi doesn’t object to the modern commercialisation of the keffiyah, he stated that “the keffiyah is a tradition of Palestine and it should be made in Palestine. We should be the ones making it.”

The keffiyahs produced in the Herbawi factory are made from 100% cotton unlike Chinese versions which are made from a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Suzanne says:

    I enjoyed your post very much. My brother live in Saudi in the 1980’s and wore one…I think he still has it.

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