The Craft of Mother of Pearl

Islamic -

The Craft of Mother of Pearl

Turning Shells into Masterpieces 
The Craft of Mother of Pearl 

This ancient craft holds within its history a boundless part of the Palestinian culture of art and creativity. The craft is especially famous in Bethlehem, the birthland of Jesus. It is said that it reached Bethlehem through Italian Franciscans Pilgrims during the 15th century. Given the region's religious status, it has been always a meeting point for many cultures, which explains its rich and varied repertoire of crafts and arts.

 The used shells are a combination of Palestinian shells along with other types of imported shells from Europe and Australia. The craft is basically practiced through stacking pieces of shells together to look as if it is peels of shiny pearl, hence the naming.
The craftsmen make frames, boxes, or statues of shells of different religious and social symbols, such as AlAqsa mosque, AlIbrahimi Mosque, and the Virgin Mary, along with Arabic phrases and verses.
Along with being a milestone in the Palestinian households' decoration, the markets of the old cities are full of these art pieces that are bought and deliberated as souvenirs from the Holy Land.

For so long, the craft had been an essential part of the Palestinian economy. It had been the livelihood of many families, with which they have built inheriting businesses and factories. These factories were mostly built in the regions of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem. Unfortunately, today, while the craft is still relatively alive, production has declined, and most of the prominent factories are shut. This is due to many of the restrictions imposed by the Occupation on the craft industry in the region. While some of the remaining factories are constantly getting offers to move their business abroad, they refuse as they aspire to keep the national identity alive.