Bayt al-Fakih Dresses (Yemen)

A festive Bayt al-Fakih dress made from black cotton with band embroidery (latter half of the 20th century; TRC 2005.0141). A festive Bayt al-Fakih dress made from black cotton with band embroidery (latter half of the 20th century; TRC 2005.0141). Courtesy Textiles Research Centre, Leiden, acc. no. TRC 2005.0141.

The Bayt al-Fakih region of Yemen is known for a form of passementerie needlework using cotton bands. This form of decoration is associated with both daily and festive women's dresses. The town of Bayt al-Fakih is located along pilgrimage and trade routes across the Tihamah plain, about 50 km south of al-Hudaydah and 150 km southwest of the Yemeni capital of Sana`a.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, Bayt al-Fakih daily dresses were often made from a black cotton cloth decorated with couched cotton bands of various sizes. Around the neck opening there is normally a broad band in silver metal thread work. These bands are made from green, red or white threads and decorated with woven and hand-wrapped silver strips.

Festive Bayt al-Faqih dresses (korta) are made from a similar black cotton cloth, but are much more elaborately decorated than the daily versions. The festive version often has a flash of colour created by narrow strips of brightly coloured cloth sewn to the ground material and then partially covered with (couched) silver bands. Similar bands are used on dresses from other parts of the Tihamah, notably from the Al-Hudaydah and the Zabid areas.

The designs on the front of the Bayt al-Faqih garments are based on blocks of various sizes, which are made up of vertical and horizontal bands. Occasionally there are stylised flowers and wheels (possibly sun bursts) between the blocks. There is comparable embroidery on the back of the dresses.

The festive dresses from this region are some of the most well-known Yemeni forms and are often described as bridal dresses. They are worn, however, by married women on other important, festive occasions. In particular, they are associated with farmer’s wives.


  • MAURIÈRES, Arnaud, Philippe CHAMBON, and Éric OSSART (2003). Reines de Saba: Itinéraires Textiles au Yémen, Aix-en Provence: Édisud.
  • RANSOM, Marjorie and Gillian VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD (2016). 'Embroidery from Yemen,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 520-559.
  • STONE, Francine (1985). Studies on the Tihamah: The Report of the Tihamah Expedition 1982 and Related Papers, London: Longman.

TRC online catalogue (retrieved 17 April 2017).


Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 18:30
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