Through contacts on social media, Dr. Reem made contact with Hugh Rance, a dealer who supplied the Zay Initiative with various pieces from the Arab world. They included this high-status shawl, (kisrawaniyah, or kasrawabiye, or humsiyah), which was traditionally worn by the women of the nomadic Kurdish Reşwan clan of the Adiyaman area in Eastern Anatolia. Large numbers of this tribe later settled in the countryside around the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Hama, and Homs.
This head veil is made from a piece of square-shaped fabric, handwoven on a loom in the nineteenth century using black silk thread. It is embellished with a golden rectangular motif, under which is woven the signature of the weaver, ‘Kaar’ (the work of) ‘Rassoul Karaki.’ The garment is framed by a gold band running parallel to the garment’s edge which allows the wearer to display their wealth. The metal bound tassels are a later, early twentieth century addition.
Kisrawaniyah were woven primarily in the city of Homs, but also in Aleppo, by skilled weavers. They are generally square in shape, but the sizes vary according to the loom, from around 110 cm to 240 cm in length. Normally, the woman would wear this head veil like a headband over her lower veil, leaving the black and colored tasseled border hanging around her face.
The head veil is an essential part of the traditional rural dress, and they provide important information about the wearer’s economic situation, as well as the region to which she belongs. The Reşwan tribe is famous for weaving and embroidering the Şar shawls known as kisrawaniyah, using a technique called ghall. The greater the number of golden threads used to weave the shawl, the higher the social and economic status of the woman wearing it. As for the tassels around the edges of the veil, they did not exist before the twentieth century.