Our grandchild Alexandra recounts her recent trip to Gaza:
The Gaza Strip regularly makes headlines, but rarely as a clothing capital. However, the intricate and distinctive embroidery of Gaza was recently highlighted in a local fashion show during which models displayed striking pieces blending contemporary and traditional elements.
Taita Leila’s Gaza top would have fit right in with its bright pink and blue thread woven around as if a necklace.
Visiting Gaza City myself a couple of months ago, it made sense to me that Gaza has a long history as a fashionable embroidery center. Most women I saw were dressed conservatively in public – almost everyone wore a hijab and long skirt or dress – but so many were wearing bright colors ranging from electric blue to soft lavender. When helping prepare dinner with some female friends, it became even more apparent how much they paid attention to style since they were able to be a bit more uncovered in private. I could more easily see the detail on their high heels, as well as the gorgeous hairstyles they wore underneath their headscarves, ranging from bouncy 1950s-style curls to dark tumbling waves.
Wandering around Gaza’s old souq, perhaps less crowded than it once was, there are still bright fabrics and large gold bangles on display throughout the tiny alleyways. It is easy to imagine a more bustling scene with women sifting through the scarves and selecting their favorites.
Given all this, it is unsurprising that Palestinian poet Khaled Juma references Gaza in his poem “My grandmother has a dress and a shawl, which reads:
“My grandmother has a dress and a shawl,
A deer is embroidered on the dress.
Deer side by side with flowers and spikes
Oh grandmother what a beautiful dress.
She says I embroidered it with my own hands.
I embroidered it a stitch by a stitch
This stitch is from Yafa
And this stitch is from Gaza.”