Textile Research Centre

Hogewoerd 164, Leiden


Textile Research Centre

3 April-29 June - From Kaftan to Kippa: Dress and Diversity in the Middle East

When thinking of the Middle East, stereotype images of bearded men and veiled women tend to come to mind. But this neighbour of Europe is far more diverse than we think. In the past few years, media coverage of the Arab Spring​ and​ the dramatic war in Syria​ and Iraq​ has placed groups such as the Copts and Kurds in the limelight, but there are many more ethnic and religious groups that are similarly not defined by national borders.


This exhibition showcases the rich dress traditions of some of the groups living in the Middle East, highlighting the intricate history of this region. They include Copts, Bedouin,​​​ Palestinians, ​Druze, ​Orthodox Jews, Samaritans, ​Kurds and Zoroastrians. The dress​ traditions of these groups are displayed and discussed​ in relation to ‘mainstream’ Middle Eastern dress​. The​ ​​exhibition displays more than forty complete outfits for men, women​,​ and children, together with ​individual garments, footwear, headgear and​ prayer beads​. It also includes an historical section on Ottoman-style clothing, such as the kaftan and the fez, which so often has influenced contemporary clothing traditions in the Middle East. ​​Many of the items ​​on display encompass​ traditionally woven and embroidered decorative forms.


The exhibition forms part of the Fitting In / Standing Out project of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.


For a photographic impression of the exhibition, click here.