In today’s context, the symbolic significance of the Kufiya (also known as Keffieh or Keffiyeh) garment holds greater importance than ever before. While it originated as a practical accessory worn by farmers to shield their heads and shoulders from the sun’s rays, the Kufiya has transcended its utilitarian purpose to become a powerful emblem representing Palestinian freedom and independence.

The history of Hirbawi Kufiya is deeply intertwined with the Palestinian heritage it seeks to preserve. Founded in 1961 by Yasser Hirbawi, the factory embarked on a journey to modernise the production of Kufiyas, the iconic Palestinian scarf. Hirbawi’s vision was to combine innovation with traditional craftsmanship, creating a modern manufacturing process that could meet the growing demand for Kufiyas while staying true to their authentic essence. Nael Alqassis, a spokesperson of the company tells us that in Hirbawi’s pursuit to modernisation, “he embarked on a journey to Japan by the end of 1950s to seek out a machine maker who could design a loom specifically tailored for Kufiya production. Despite the challenges posed by language barriers and cultural differences, his determination and vision enabled him to collaborate with Japanese experts, creating a loom that could produce the intricate patterns of the Kufiya.” This allowed Hirbawi Kufiya to emerge as a leading producer of Kufiyas in Palestine. By combining traditional craftsmanship with innovative manufacturing techniques, “the factory was able to meet the demand for high-quality Kufiyas while preserving the cultural significance of this iconic Palestinian garment.”

The traditional craftsmanship of Kufiya is carefully maintained by Hirbawi’s production of these coloured scarfs Image Credit: Supplied

The Kufiya’s transformation from a functional piece of clothing to a symbol of profound meaning mirrors the aspirations and struggles of the Palestinian people. What was once a mere -cloth for protection has now evolved into a powerful expression of identity and resistance, embodying the unwavering spirit and yearning for self-determination. The international media’s attention on Hirbawi played a crucial role in -raising awareness about the importance of original Palestinian Kufiyas. The factory has faced struggles which caught the attention of local and international journalists, highlighting the significance of preserving traditional craftsmanship and supporting local artisans. “As news of the factory’s challenges spread, individuals and organizations around the world started placing small orders, particularly for the traditional Black and White and Red and White Kufiyas. The support and recognition generated by the media coverage played a vital role in revitalising the factory and creating a renewed interest in the original Palestinian Kufiya.” The journey to Hirbawi “was a powerful example of how media attention can contribute to raising awareness and driving positive change for small producers facing adversity.”

The threat of counterfeits was one of the many challenges the factory had to face. “After the Oslo Accords of 1993, the Palestinian Authority adopted a free-trade policy without protecting local artisans and traditional industries had -disastrous consequences. Many traders began sending original Palestinian Kufiya to China to be copied and importing cheap counterfeits back into Palestine. “By the early 2000s, the situation worsened as the Kufiya became a victim of the fast fashion industry. Millions of Kufiyas were being sold -worldwide, but none of them were made in Palestine. This led to the closure of all Kufiya factories and workshops in Palestine, except for Hirbawi. Despite the fact that keeping the machines running made no economic sense, we made a conscious decision to continue production at the Hirbawi factory. It was a gesture of defiance against the fading tradition of Palestinian Kufiya production and a testament to our commitment to preserving this cultural heritage. We wanted Yasser Hirbawi and the local community to have a tangible reminder of their craftsmanship and the rich history associated with the Kufiya. The decision to maintain production was driven by a deep sense of pride and a belief in the importance of upholding Palestinian traditions, even in the face of adversity.”

In 2012, Hirbawi’s cooperation with, a Palestinian-led business in Germany, brought new and exciting opportunities. By importing and distributing Palestinian products, including Hirbawi Kufiyas, they established an online shop that addressed logistical challenges. This collaboration not only increased sales but also allowed for the exploration of new market opportunities and the enhancement of traditional Kufiyas. “Soon after, an official online shop for Hirbawi was established: This became a platform for promoting and distributing Palestinian Kufiyas, addressing logistical challenges that would have been difficult to manage directly from Palestine,” Hirbawi reveals. “This joint venture brought forth a wealth of innovative ideas to enhance the traditional Kufiyas. The objective extended beyond reaching a broader audience and engaging individuals who sought to express solidarity with Palestine or support traditional craftsmanship. It also aimed to foster a deeper connection between the Kufiya and Palestine itself. With this vision in mind, Hirbawi began producing Kufiyas inspired by and dedicated to various Palestinian locations.”

Keeping the tradition of producing original Palestinian Kufiyas alive is of utmost importance to Hirbawi. “It is not just about manufacturing a garment; it is about preserving Palestinian heritage, culture, and identity. The kufiya holds deep historical and symbolic significance for the Palestinian people, representing resilience, resistance, and solidarity. By continuing to produce authentic kufiyas, Hirbawi plays a vital role in upholding Palestinian traditions, supporting local artisans, and ensuring that this iconic symbol remains a tangible representation of Palestinian identity for generations to come.” Hirbawi continues to tell us how it feels to carry on the family legacy started by founder, Yasser Hirbawi, “it fills us with a profound sense of purpose and pride. It is a responsibility that we hold dear, as it allows us to contribute to the preservation of Palestinian culture and heritage through the production of kufiyas. One of the most rewarding aspects of continuing this legacy is the connection we forge with people around the world. Every time we receive a positive message from individuals who appreciate and support our work, it warms our hearts. It reminds us that we are not alone in the struggles and atrocities faced by our people in Palestine.”

The traditional craftsmanship of Kufiya is carefully maintained by Hirbawi’s production of these coloured scarfs Image Credit: Supplied

Hirbawi envisions a future brimming with ambition and purpose. At the forefront of their aspirations lies the drive to amplify production capacity and foster greater employment prospects for Palestinians. A vital step towards achieving these goals involves revitalizing the factory with cutting-edge looms and advanced technology, indispensable for elevating efficiency, productivity, and the overall caliber of Kufiyas. Through these steadfast endeavors, Hirbawi strives to cultivate a sustainable and flourishing Kufiya industry in Palestine, thereby propelling the economic growth and prosperity of the local community. “Our vision is to establish a sustainable and thriving kufiya industry in Palestine, one that provides meaningful employment for local artisans and contributes to the economic development of our community. We are excited about the future and the positive impact we can make together.”

Hirbawi Kufiyas stand as a testament to the resilience of Palestinian heritage and the power of preserving cultural traditions. In the face of challenges and counterfeits, Hirbawi has remained steadfast in its commitment to producing original Palestinian Kufiyas. Through collaborations, media attention, and global support, Hirbawi continues to thrive, expanding production and creating job opportunities for Palestinians. With each Kufiya they create, Hirbawi strengthens the bond between Palestinians and their heritage, fostering a sense of pride, identity, and hope for the future.

“Knowing that our kufiyas resonate with people from different backgrounds and cultures reaffirms the importance of our mission. It reminds us that the legacy we carry is not confined to our family alone but extends to a global community that values the rich history and significance of the kufiya, Hirbawi says. “We are immensely grateful for every positive message and review we receive, as they serve as a reminder of the meaningful and impactful nature of our efforts. Each interaction and connection we make further highlights the power of solidarity and the shared commitment to justice and peace that unites us.”

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