Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Chapter 26 Hebron - part 3: last man standing

Coming out of the mosque I walk up to my friends feeling a bit disconnected. The feeling soon wears off as we walk back up Shuhada Street and back to the Arab section.

We are looking for the keffiyeh factory. Most keffiyehs are manufactured in Jordan or China and there is only one source for Palestinian made keffiyehs. The Hirbawi Textile Factory in Hebron.

After much direction getting and a futile attempt at persuading the friendly Palestinian police to take us in their police vans, we pile into taxis and find ourselves at the door of a large warehouse room.

It is dark, a little damp and very bare. Large, rusty machines that look about a hundred years old are whirring along noisily in rows at the far end. Two old men work in the factory; walking around and checking up on the machines.

Keffiyehs of all colors are in various stages of production on the machines. The slingshot loom systems shoot back and forth at finger snapping speeds. We wander around lost in it all.

The mass production of keffiyehs has resulted in what feels like a dilution of its symbolism.

In the UK, every other person’s got a keffiyeh, tie-dyed red, green or yellow and purchased from Diesel or Camden Market, which they understand only as a fashionable item of clothing.

Even those who are aware of its roots cannot be aware that by purchasing non Palestinian manufactured scarves they are actually contributing to the dwindling of the Palestinian keffeiyeh industry.

The last remaining factory; the factory that practically clothed the second intifada.

Inside, in the small office room, the walls are lined with shelves and plastic encased keffiyehs. The men are very friendly and take great joy in our interest in the factory.

They are not in it for the money. Anyway they’re not much over breaking even at the end of the month. They feel it is their duty to continue, to maintain the authenticity of the symbol.


  1. Another extremely interesting post! I hope you got one, straight from the factory :-)

  2. Thanks so much Mich! Yes - we got a bunch! We traipsed out with bags of 'em.