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Caftan Ntaa قفطان النطع

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𝗖𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗮𝗻 𝗡𝘁𝗮𝗮 :

A Moroccan velvet caftan embroidered with gold thread (Sqalli), typical of the city of Fez and worn by the bride-to-be at the Henna evening. She also wears a Taj Fassi (gold tiara), Mdemma (gold belt), Fanayer and Mdayej el Joher (string of pearls). In the 19th century, caftans were embroidered only on the tip and were buttoned to the waist; early 20th century models had richer embellishments and buttons that extend to the hem. The embroidery on the velvet garment is emblematic of Fez, where artisans often used 22-carat gold thread (antae is a type of gold thread embroidery). The motifs augured well for the newlyweds: birds were thought to bring good luck, and flowers symbolized joy and happiness. Such elaborate caftans took a very long time to make and were accessible only to wealthy brides, who would wear them for other special occasions after the wedding.




Gold thread embroideries are famous in Morocco, and especially Fez, a city where Jewish craftsmen have been renowned since the Middle Ages for the work of gold thread (sqalli).

They are found in caftans, babouches, tarbouches, fabrics, everyday objects, etc...

Until the 1930s, the manufacture of gold wire was one of the oldest, most renowned and most important industries in the Mellah (or Jewish quarter of Fez, according to Vicar and Le Tourneau); it directly employed 700 people, nearly a tenth of the population of the Mellah. Part of it was sold to other cities such as Debdou, Meknes, Rabat and Salé, Tetouan, Marrakech. The name given to the golden thread, the sqalli, remains a mystery.


But going back in the history of the ties of the Jews of the Mediterranean, we note that in the first centuries of the Christian era, there was the trade of "silk" practiced by the Jewish population of several countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly in continental Greece and Corfu.


Under Roger Il, in the 12th century, Sicily had achieved a high degree of prosperity, to the point of rivaling Venice. On returning from an expedition against the Byzantines, Roger II brought back Jewish silk specialists captured in Thebes, famous in the Middle Ages for its silk factories, and in other cities of Greece, to install them in his royal factory in Palermo. It is not known whether the Jews processed both gold and silk there, but it is possible to assume so; it seems that the name shekel, of very ancient origin, given to the present Israeli currency, has the same root as the word sqalli (Sicilian).

The history of Sicily is eventful. In the 15th century it belonged to the kingdom of Aragon. In 1492 Ferdinand II of Aragon promulgated the Edict of Expulsion which caused a large number of Jews to flee to Morocco. The sqali may have originated from a direct relationship between the Jews who had already been living in Morocco for centuries and their co-religionists in Sicily, or from a passage of this technique through Spain at a more or less remote time. Gold thread would have continued to be produced in this country by Jews without losing its name of "Sicilian".


Sources: DENAMUR, Isabelle (2003). Moroccan Textile Embroidery, Paris: Flammarion. GOICHON, Anne-Marie (1939), 'La broderie au fil d'or en Fes', Hesperis 26, pp. 49-85, and 241-281. STONE, Caroline (1985). The Embroideries of North Africa, London and New York: Longman. VIVIER, Marie-France (1991). Broderies Marocaines, Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France. VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian and Caroline STONE (2016). 'Embroidery from Morocco,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 188-209, esp. pp. 197-200.


















Sources: DENAMUR, Isabelle (2003). Moroccan Textile Embroidery, Paris: Flammarion. GOICHON, Anne-Marie (1939), 'La broderie au fil d'or en Fes', Hesperis 26, pp. 49-85, and 241-281. STONE, Caroline (1985). The Embroideries of North Africa, London and New York: Longman. VIVIER, Marie-France (1991). Broderies Marocaines, Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France. VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian and Caroline STONE (2016). 'Embroidery from Morocco,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 188-209, esp. pp. 197-200.



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