Arab women's fashion between mythology and modernity, 25 May 1998

When Anat, the goddess of the moon, had established her empire over the heaven, she was ready to welcome her lover Baal. But Baal, did not appear. Mot, god of the underworld, had captured him. Full of love and armed with her wrath, she declared the holy fight against death to rescue Baal, her love.

Furiously descending the staircase to the underworld, she took off on each step a piece of her beautiful clothing, sacrificing herself for the fight against evil. The disc of the moon became a crescent and finally disappeared, fighting in the underworld until she victoriously ascended again, preparing herself for the holy wedding, the triumph of life over death. Grow, oh you crescent and grant us a blessed month, keep away all evil and bless our days.

After the holy wedding the earth became fertile again, the power of the nature exploded in spring until the earth became pregnant with fruits in summer. And after the feast of harvest, the goddess of the moon and the earth took the holy rest and developed all her wisdom in the winter of the year. This is the holy trinity of Anat, the goddess of nature, a virgin and fighter, Fedaya against the death in spring; lover and birth-giving mother in Summer; and mature wise old woman in winter.

Anat, the goddess—the fertile ear of corn, the virgin and the mother teaches her daughters. With their blessed hands they spin, weave, and embroider the material which not only protects their bodies from the cold wind at night and the blistering heat at noon, but protects their souls from the spirit of the desert and the evil eye and from Korina, the demon of the crib.

Now we can see in the Arab woman, the daughter of Anat, that her body is a temple and her dress the alter clothes. United deeply with nature which embraces her, she weaves red and green stripes in her dark blue linen—heaven and hell—confession of her devotion to the balance of nature. She adorns her dress a million fold with the cross, symbol of the beginning, where the good crosses the evil and life is created. With every stitch of her blessed hand, she celebrates her prayer. She creates a work of art, balance art and with deep sensuality and mystical meaning, a dress and an amulet.

This is the heritage of Anat: a universe and at the same time a seed. She puts it into our hands so that we protect and tend it. Traditional cloth-making is a women's art which bears witness to the complex personage of the daughters of Anat, the Arab women. Traditions have always changed when social, economic and political circumstances change. Through thousands of years there were no great changes in the way of life of the Bedouins and peasants in this area, and the traditions were inherited from generation to generation without great changes.

For thousands of years, women in the Arab area have embroidered. Millions of women through hundreds of generations have created a heritage of untold value, not only for the Arab people, but for all mankind. Aesthetically balanced, full of mythological mystery, a mirror of history and an outlook on life. Every woman used to embroider for herself or for her sister or daughter. Her dress was always a very individual amulet, an expression of herself and her emotional requirements. As such, each dress is a piece of art, an amulet written in the poetical language of patterns and colors. A silent and sensible language which one begins to understand when one opens his heart and is ready to learn from generations which have accumulated the wisdom of history, the culmination of oriental culture.

As much as we learn from our heritage, love, protect and develop it, it will be ours and the seed will grow and bring upon new fruits. The treasure of Anat, the artistic work of hundreds of generations, will be in our hands. It is ours and will stay alive if we care.