Originally established to improve the finances and position of Bedouin women by making their crafts more commercially available, the Negev Desert Embroidery and Weaving programs have become officially declared tourist sites, turning a formerly small trading craft into a full-blown heritage site.
Centered around the settlement of Lakiya near Be’er-Sheva, Israel, both the weaving and embroidery crafts are on full display for visitors to observe. Using traditional patterns and methods, the desert embroidery gives the Bedouin women of the area the opportunity to ply their craft right in their own homes where visitors can come to see the work as it is in process. The process has been handed down throughout their families for generations and the women also now provide workshops for anyone interested in learning the ancient trade. The embroidery produces everything from purses to clothing to wall hangings putting the proceeds of the craft right back into the women’s pockets.
The desert weaving on display is a much larger scale craft. Producing clothing, rugs, carpets, and cushions, the desert weaving facility has a more rural industrial quality. Still employing traditional methods, simply using larger tools, the desert weaving process uses dyes imported from Britain and cloth spun from camel, goat, and sheep hair. the products are decorated in the undeniable stripes and checks of the Bedouin style.
Given the assumed disparity of opportunity for women as breadwinners in the Bedouin society, the Negev Desert Embroidery and Weaving sites are quite the oasis’ of equality.
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