(Pre-) Modern Middle East and North Africa
An Aba is a traditional, and generally a sleeveless, flowing cloak worn by men and women throughout the Arab world and neighbouring countries. When worn by women it may be draped over the head (for example, in Iraq) or worn from the shoulders (in Jordan). Men normally wear it draped over the shoulders.
Akhmim embroidery is a form of modern ‘naive’ embroidery associated with the city of Akhmim in Upper Egypt. Textiles, especially woven forms, have been produced at the city for thousands of years. This relationship has been used by various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) to build up local weaving projects, especially for women, developing new weave and embroidery styles and bringing Muslim and Christian communities together.
Aleppo embroidery is a form of monochrome counted thread embroidery associated with the Aleppo region in Syria. During the first half of the twentieth century, many Arab girls made garments for their future husband, which were to be worn by the grooms during the wedding ceremonies. These garments were intended to show off the embroidery skills of the bride to her future husband and his family.
The Bayt al-Fakih region of Yemen is known for a form of passementerie needlework using cotton bands. This form of decoration is associated with both daily and festive women's dresses. The town of Bayt al-Fakih is located along pilgrimage and trade routes across the Tihamah plain, about 50 km south of al-Hudaydah and 150 km southwest of the Yemeni capital of Sana`a.
Bethlehem couching is a dominant form of Bethlehem embroidery, which was particularly popular in the twentieth century for the panels on women’s dresses and jackets. It is characterised by various forms of cord couching, with thin cords in different colours and often including a metal thread of some kind, which are sewn down traditionally with silk, in sinuous and/or stylised floral patterns.
Chefchaouen embroidery derives from a city with the same name, which is located in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco. Founded in 1471, the city soon became home to Jewish and Muslim exiles fleeing the Spanish Reconquista. The embroidery traditions of the various religious and ethnic groups all affected later Chefchaouen production.
Many embroidery designs in North Africa and the Middle East are passed down from one generation to another by copying older pieces of embroidery. However, it was not uncommon for girls and women in Morocco to decorate cloth with various forms of designs and stitches, and at first glance these pieces of decorated cloth seem comparable to European samplers.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and lies just south of Turkey. It has a long tradition of decorative needlework, in particular redwork and whitework. For centuries the island has been part of an intensive maritime network that linked the whole of the Mediterranean world together.
The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin holds a silk and gold and silver thread embroidered woman's cape from what is now Ethiopia. It appears to be one of a number of comparable capes commissioned by the Ethiopian emperor, Tewodros II (c. 1818-1868), from the Adwa workshops, as part of his overtures to Queen Victoria for the modernisation of the country and defence against the Muslim neighbouring states.