Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium (2004)


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


Centuries of tradition in the weaving of the Bedouin, using sheepswool and goat hair, has changed dramatically in the last fifty years. With the decline of nomadism, due directly and indirectly to the discovery of oil, techniques and products have fallen to disuse or have been transformed with new materials and put to new uses.

Bedouin weaving was formerly used for tents, rugs and animal gear by nomadic Arab tribes in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine/Israel and Egypt. Lifestyles among and influences on the bedu vary by region, but the decline of nomadism is common to all. Desert tents are often used now to entertain urban dwellers in their courtyards. Large wool tent dividers, no longer in common use, are now substituted with synthetic versions and used as wall decorations, often in miniature. The settled Bedouin, in their transformed lifestyle, have developed a variety of short portable looms and other technical innovations for making smaller pieces for foreign and urban markets.

In the Levant, changes were brought about by war, colonization and occupation. World War I dissolved the Ottoman Empire, changing borders and migration patterns. Thriving textile industries declined. World War II and the creation of Israel decimated tribal life. Charitable organizations in Jordan and Israel have formed to help settled Bedouin women use traditional methods and materials to make and market their products. Westernized design, color and catalogue marketing methods are used to promote sales.