Textiles, Embroideries & Costumes

Textiles, Embroideries & Costumes

The Gulf region is poorly represented for a number of reasons including the rapidity of change that has taken place in the second half of the 20th century. This is a pity because the variety of costume and embroidery within the Islamic tradition, was quite extensive and varied. This ranged from the work of men who wove the ‘bisht’ or male shoulder mantle, to costumes made and embroidered by women of different towns or tribes. The ‘thob’ (a flimsy net overdress) used in the Eastern part of the Gulf and Arabia was tailored by professional embroideresses in Bahrain. Although the ‘thob’ was made in Kuwait with the placement of embroidery particular to that country, a Bahrain ‘thob’ was always considered particularly special. One of the primary examples for the comparative lack of examples is society in the Gulf was not a throwaway one and clothing was carefully mended and re-mended and passed down until it ended its life as a sometimes decorative pot holder. Ultimately, this has left very little for the collector to obtain. However, the clothing traditions from Syria, Palestine and Jordan, which differs from that of the Gulf is well represented in the Museum.

The Tareq Rajab Museum houses an extensive range of textiles, embroideries and costumes, with good acquisitions from Syria, Palestine, Jordan and in certain areas of Ottoman Turkey. Smaller collections include Afghanistan, North Africa, Indonesia, Iran and India. There are a number of Coptic weavings (5th century AD) as well as early Islamic pieces (8th century AD) from the Tiraz workshops (Islamic court workshops). On display and in storage are hats and headwear, many decorated with embroidery, coins, beads, cowrie shells as well as what became the very popular ‘pearl’ buttons. The Museum houses thousands of individual costumes, with only a handful currently on display.  The Museum also holds some fine examples of ‘Al-Sedu’ or Bedouin weaving from Kuwait. Generally, old pieces from Kuwait are difficult to find because they made to be used until they were worn out. Many were also lost during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait.  

Collection Highlights

A few examples of the costumes housed in the museum

Click on each image for more details!

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