Kerdasa Embroidery (Egypt)

Kerdasa dress, Egypt, 1970's. Kerdasa dress, Egypt, 1970's. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden, acc. no. TRC 2012.0018.

Kerdasa embroidery is associated with the town of Kerdasa, now a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. For centuries, Kerdasa was known for the production, by men, of woven textiles, which were traded along the east-west routes from Egypt to Libya, often via the Siwa oasis.

Local women working from home often produced beaded and embroidered panels for long gowns (galabiya), traditionally woven by the men. In the early 1980's, it was estimated that there were 1500 embroiderers in the Kerdasa region. They worked on pre-cut galabiya pieces with yarns supplied by local merchants. The finished products were sold locally in Cairo’s markets.

Kerdasa embroidery is characterised by its bright colours and large motifs, some of which are based on ancient Egyptian designs. In the 1970's, new patterns were introduced to appeal to the tourist market. In 1978, for example, a pattern based on Siwa oasis wedding dresses became popular. In the 1990's, men were able to access funding needed to acquire embroidery machines and women’s home-based hand embroidery industry was almost totally replaced by men working in small workshops. This development caused the economic role of female hand embroiderers to decline sharply and by the early twenty-first century there were very few hand embroiderers left in Kerdasa.


  • LYNCH, Patricia D. and Hoda FAHMY (1984). Craftswomen in Kerdassa, Egypt, Geneva: International Labour Office.
  • MENHEZ, Shahira and Gillian VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD (2016). 'Embroidery from Egypt,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 264-293, esp. pp. 271-272.


Last modified on Thursday, 25 May 2017 15:59