Jebel Haraz Embroidered Dresses (Yemen)

A Jebel Haraz dress, Yemen. Mid-20th century A Jebel Haraz dress, Yemen. Mid-20th century TRC 2005.0136.

The Jebel Haraz region of Yemen is known for its indigo dyed dresses with applied and embroidered decoration. Jebel Haraz is a mountainous area that lies between the Tihamah coastal plain and Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

There are two main types of Jebel Haraz festive dresses. One is made of indigo dyed cotton cloth that is embroidered with silver coloured thread. The main areas of decoration are around the neck opening and down the front of the garment, along the top of the sleeves and at the sleeve cuffs. This garment is normally worn with a pair of trousers that are similarly embroidered.

Another form of Jebel Haraz festive dress (zanna) is also made of indigo dyed cotton, but decorated with a variety of small, applied metal discs, metal chains, pieces of shell, as well as various embroidery stitches worked in white, red and occasionally with yellow perlé cotton. Sometimes a floss silk or rayon in blue, green or red is added.

The stitches used for this type of dress include back stitchblanket stitch, half back stitch, various types of chain stitch, cross stitch and Roumanian couching. The cross stitches include: twisted chain stitch, isolated twisted chain stitch, twisted chain stitch with extra spur, plus the combination of a twisted chain stitch with extra spur ending in a ‘knot’, made from a small twisted chain stitch, and a spiked chain stitch.

The main area of decoration is in a broad band down the front of the garment and in a narrower flanking band on either side. The embroidered patterns include rectangles and triangles, sometimes in complicated overlapping forms. The flanking embroidered bands also strengthen and cover the seam lines down the front and back of the garments. The back of the garments tends to be very plain and there may only be two narrow bands of embroidery down the seam lines.

See also: nacre work


  • 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, esp. pp. 543-544.
  • STONE, Francine (1985). Studies on the Tihamah: The Report of the Tihamah Expedition 1982 and Related Papers, London: Longman.


Last modified on Saturday, 28 January 2017 10:11