What Shira.net Users Think
The above poll includes responses submitted since October 28, 2002.
Note: Shira has a policy against video producers asking their students, family, and friends to pad the votes, or campaigning for favorable votes through their web sites. Click here for detailed information about the policy.
* Pricing information was current as of the date indicated above, but may have changed since then. Please contact the video producer for the most current pricing information.
* The prices shown above apply to those purchases who are acquiring personal copies for viewing in their homes. Prices for institutional use such as lending libraries, dance studios, and other institutions are higher.
This half-hour video is a documentary about traditional women's clothing and embroidery designs of Palestine. Narrated by Maha Munayyer, it opens with her describing the preparations a Palestinian bride would have gone through for her wedding - weaving the fabric for her wedding dress, doing the embroidery, etc. This is followed by a 1-minute tableau depicting the bride, the groom, and the bride's friends dancing to Middle Eastern music while dressed in traditional clothing.
The primary substance of the video comes next. In a 20-minute segment, Munayyer moves from region to region of Palestine, describing the local variations style of clothing typical of each. The tour covers Bethlemen, Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa, Galilee, Majdal, Gaza, and the southern desert. In all cases, she speaks strictly of women's clothing, particularly describing the dress style and the traditional embroidery designs typical of that region. For the northwest, she also describes a little about the shalwar worn under the yelek, and for the southern desert region she notes that this was the only area in Palestine where veils covering the face were used. Most of the dresses shown in the video are from the early 20th century, around the 1920's, although a few are newer. In most cases, the narrative does identify the age of the dresses modeled.
The descriptions of the dresses and the local variations in embroidery is excellent. The video covers color, what the fabric is made of, how the embroidery designs have been altered over the 20th century with the coming of European influence, and more. I find the narrative to be very informative on the subject of the embroidery, and I'm very pleased to have found such a valuable resource on this topic. Although there are a number of books about Palestinian dresses, the still photos on the printed page lack the vitality of seeing the dress on video.
However, despite this praise, the video is not quite perfect. Its title had led me to expect that it would contain information on Palestinian clothing in general, including not only the legendary dresses, but also other garments. However, very little is said about the headdresses, and only once does the video discuss what type of pants (if any) were worn underneath the dresses. Nothing is said at all about traditional footwear. It leaves me feeling hungry, wanting more. That lack of information about headdresses, pants, and male clothing is why I give this video only four stars instead of five. Admittedly, the dresses with their incredible detailed embroidery designs are the most compelling characteristic of Palestinian attire, so I agree with the decision to focus on them, and I wouldn't want to withdraw any of the time that is spent discussing them. I just feel the video would have been stronger if it had devoted an additional 10-15 minutes to cover the additional topics.
The display of the dresses is done very well. With Palestinian music playing softly in the background, the women modeling the dresses do low-key simple Oriental dance moves and take turns coming forward to show their dresses. Voiceover narration by Munayyer describes what to look for on the dress of each model as she comes forward, with appropriate camera closeups zooming in to show the embroidery detail. I find that the combination of music, dance, and narrative is an extremely effective way to organize the display of the dresses. The choice to use live models makes for a much more compelling video than dresses hung on mannequins would have been. The music and dancing adds a lively taste of culture that merely walking and turning would not have done.
The final section of the video, about 6 1/2 minutes long, looks at the history of these dresses. It shows examples of ancient art from Egypt, Assyria, and other parts of the region depicting ancient Canaanite people wearing clothing featuring these embroidery designs, and shows how the cut of the clothing evolved over time. Any woman interested in wearing Palestinian-style clothing for historical re-enactment events such as Renaissance Faire or Society for Creative Anachronism will find this section useful. Although the historical clothing pictured comes from ancient times, it's reasonable to conclude that if a given embroidery design was used in ancient Egypt and still used on clothing from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, then it's probably reasonable to conclude it was also used during the Medieval and Renaissance periods that these enactment groups depict.
Is It Right for You?
You Will Probably Enjoy This Video If
This Video Probably Isn't Right for You If
What I Liked, What I Didn't
What I Liked:
What I Didn't Like:
There are a number of books available that discuss embroidered Palestinian clothing, but to my knowledge this is the only video on the subject. When studying historical garments, it's always helpful to see how the garment moves, so it's valuable to have this information in video form.
I would gladly recommend this video to anyone who is interested in the traditional dresses of Palestine. The information it presents offers a great resource for women involved in historical re-enactment who would like to portray characters from this region. Dancers interested in performing debke may find this video useful as a reference on one type of clothing that would be ethnically appropriate.
If you're interested in men's garb, or if you want to know more about the women's headdresses, pants, and shoes, you won't learn much from this video. But if you're starting from the position of knowing nothing about clothing from this region, this video will provide a solid introduction.
I wish this video would have been longer. It's only a half hour in length, which constrains how much ground it can cover. The producers have done a fine job of making good use of the available time, and have presented the information in an easy-to-digest format. It leaves me hungry for more.
The price per minute for this video is in line with typical pricing for documentaries in the field of Middle Eastern music, dance, and culture.
There is nothing to disclose. I purchased this video from the producer at the normal price, and have had no other contact with them.
To Buy It
Contact the Palestinian Heritage Foundation as follows:
Palestinian Heritage Foundation
Phone: (+1) (908) 740 5583
Articles on this web site related to traditional garb that you may find helpful include:
This entire web site is copyrighted. All rights reserved.
All articles, images, forms, scripts, directories, and product reviews on this web site are the property of Shira unless a different author/artist is identified. Material from this web site may not be posted on any other web site unless permission is first obtained from Shira.
Academic papers for school purposes may use information from this site only if the paper properly identifies the original article on Shira.net using appropriate citations (footnotes, end notes, etc.) and bibliography. Consult your instructor for instructions on how to do this.
If you wish to translate articles from Shira.net into a language other than English, Shira will be happy to post your translation here on Shira.net along with a note identifying you as the translator. This could include your photo and biography if you want it to. Contact Shira for more information. You may not post translations of Shira's articles on anybody else's web site, not even your own.
If you are a teacher, performer, or student of Middle Eastern dance, you may link directly to any page on this web site from either your blog or your own web site without first obtaining Shira's permission. Click here for link buttons and other information on how to link.
Explore more belly dance info:Top >
Belly Dancing >
Index to Middle Eastern Culture Section
Share this page!
|Top > Belly Dancing > Index to Middle Eastern Culture Section|