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Woman's scarf (lahfe)
Sana'a, Northern Yemen, Yemen
Dyed and block-printed cotton
L: 120, W: 82 cm
Accession number: B64.12.4267

In San'a, married Jewish women would drape a rectangular scarf over their hoods whenever they left the house. It would cover the head, shoulders, and part of the back. Whenever a man crossed her path a Jewish woman would conceal the lower part of her face with the scarf, a practice that was probably influenced by the custom of Muslim women to veil the entire face. The color and design of the scarf were produced by dyeing the original off-white cotton cloth red and then black, by means of a reverse block-printing technique. This would result in a black central panel with eight large red-and-white roundels distributed evenly across , resembling stars in a black sky, framed on all four sides by a thin band of roundels in red and off-white, dotted with flowers or stars. The scarf worn by older women featured oval rather than round patterns, and was humorously referred to as the "cross-eyed scarf" (lahfe hawleh). The two short sides of the scarf are framed by a wide trellis pattern composed of symmetrically arranged floral motifs, in red and off-white.

From the Israel Museum publications:
Muchawsky-Schnapper, Ester, The Yemenites: Two Thousand Years of Jewish Culture, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2000, English / Hebrew
The Jewish World 365 Days, from the Collections of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, USA, 2004

Highlights of the Judaica and Jewish Ethnography Collections Online, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir

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