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Traditional Palestinian dresses presented at fashion show ‘to protect memory of a nation’

By Muath Freij - Feb 28,2015 - Last updated at Feb 28,2015

AMMAN — Nimat Saleh glided on stage in a traditional dress worn in Jordan, Palestine and Syria, proudly showing it to the audience as a sign of unity between Arab countries and the Levant in particular.

Saleh, the secretary general of Hannouneh Society for Popular Culture, was joined by several members of the society clad in other traditional dresses from Palestine in a fashion show on Saturday to protect “a nation’s memory”.

“We believe that the Levant is like one place that has one language, tradition and culture. The dress I wore is popular in Palestine, Syria and Jordan, which symbolises unity,” she told The Jordan Times.

Saleh said the event, which also included a traditional dabkeh performance, shows that protecting memory is a tool to combat attempts to erase a nation’s identity.

“What happened in Mosul at the hands of Daesh is an example of erasing the identity of a nation, and Daesh is no different from the Zionists. We wanted to tell people that we can protect the identity of a nation by protecting its memory.” 

The Daesh terror group released a video last week showing its members smashing priceless artefacts and ancient statues at Mosul’s museum in Iraq with sledgehammers.

Saleh said holding such events frequently showcases traditional dresses as they were worn by older generations, without changes or “modern twists”. 

“Modernity added a beautiful touch to these dresses, but it contributed — in some cases — to gradually erasing their identity,” she noted, adding that the organisers encouraged audience members to show up in their traditional dresses as well. “Traditional dresses are hard to find these days and if you want to order one, it will take you six months to get it, so we wanted to showcase its important value to the new generation,” Saleh said.

Noting that the Hannouneh society has previously held around five events similar to Saturday’s show, she recalled that in the first event, the number of women wearing traditional dresses was limited but has since gradually been on the rise, and some women even started borrowing dresses from Hannouneh. 

Hannouneh started in 1990 as a traditional music troupe and in 1993 developed into a society and was registered at the Ministry of Culture, according to Saleh.  

Hana Salah, a member of the women’s committee at the society who also participated in the fashion show, said these dresses face the threat of “extinction” as they fade from public memory.

“These events help revive people’s memories about these parts of our heritage,” she added. 

Salah, a mother of three and grandmother of one, said she always tells her children about these traditional dresses and their importance.

Hanan Qobbaj, also a member of the women’s committee at Hannouneh, wore a dress from Gaza’s Khan Younis to show “how proud we are of Gazans”.

“We also care about Jordanian and Palestinian heritage and we will do everything to showcase their beauty. Our tradition is unique and we want many people to know more about it,” Qobbaj said.

Mona Abu Hantash, an audience member, said she frequents the society’s events . 

“I bring my 14-year-old daughter with me to make her more attached to this kind of tradition and learn about Palestinian culture including dresses and dances,” she noted. 

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