ARTISANS

Most of the 430 Bedouin women who sew and embroider products for FanSina are from the Jabaleya tribe. The name Jabaleya refers to the mountains (Jabal meaning mountain in Arabic), which is their tribal territory. While most other Bedouin groups are desert dwellers, the home of the Jabaleya is in the labyrinth of high altitude valleys.

Traditionally, families cultivated gardens at different locations in the valleys where they lived in the summer months. For the winter months, the people moved to lower altitude. Today, this seasonal migration is practiced on a much smaller scale, when families spend time in the mountains during the summer school holidays. The gardens are a unique feature of the Jabaleya. In the gardens they grow a variety of crops such as apples, almonds, olives, apricots, figs, grapes, peaches, dates and pears.

The women use the flora and fauna as the inspiration for their embroidery. They are the only Bedouin tribe that creates non-geometric embroidery designs. Women traditionally embroidered when they were herding the goats on the mountainsides. They would carry a 'sugar' bag with them that contained teacups, sugar and tealeaves and a shepherd's bag to hold a musical instrument and food. Both of these bags would be embroidered by their owner during walks in the mountains.

The tribe numbers approximately 6,000 persons, half of whom reside in the village. The rest live in satellite settlements in the valleys around St. Catherine. Most children attend elementary school and secondary school but only 50% of the girls attend high school.

Young women begin to marry at 16 and most will have spouses by their early 20s. After marriage, a woman usually moves into a house close to her husband's family. Most Jabaleya Bedouin depend on the tourists and pilgrims who visit the monastery of St. Catherine for their income. They lead the people up Mount Sinai with their camels and act as guides.