Raf-Raf Embroidery (Tunisia)

Raf-Raf wedding dress, Tunisia. Raf-Raf wedding dress, Tunisia.

Raf-Raf is a small town on a headland southeast of Bizerte, Tunisia. It is famous for its embroidery. The embroidery is used for its elaborate, everyday tunics for women (suriya mabdu) and for the elaborate regional Raf-Raf wedding outfit. The evolution of the Raf-Raf costume has been described by the Tunisian costume historian, Aziza ben Tanfous, in Les Costumes Traditionnels Feminins de Tunisie (1978:60, pls. 13-17).

According to Tanfous there is a strong link between the Raf-Raf costume and that of Andalusia (southern Spain), and in particular the tunics depicted in medieval Spanish/Andalusian miniatures, with stripes and embroidered plastrons and sleeves (1988:57). This type of tunic was known in Spain as camisa margomada. The term is derived from the Arabic raqama, which means ‘to embroider'.

The Raf-Raf region embroidery is generally worked on a gourgaf or wooden frame with legs, using silk, wool and gold threads on a cloth and/or tulle ground. All the gold is couched (a technique locallly known as tanbit), while the silk and wool are basically worked in satin stitch with a back stitch edging.


  • AYOUB, Abderrahman (2003). Signes et Symboles en Tunisie, Tunis: Institut National du Patrimoine.
  • GINESTOUS, L. (1954). ‘La tunique brodée de Rafraf,’ Bulletin de Liaison de l’Office des Arts Tunisiens, 1, pp. 13-20.
  • STONE, Caroline (1985). The Embroideries of North Africa, London: Longman.
  • TANFOUS, Aziza Ben (et al; 1988). Les costumes traditionnels feminins de Tunisie, Tunis: Maison Tunisienne de l’Edition.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 9th July 2016).


Last modified on Saturday, 20 May 2017 15:13