The Last Kufiya Factory
Yasser Hirbawi opened his kufiya factory in 1961 in Al Khalil (Hebron), West Bank, Palestine. Located in the largest city in the West Bank, Hirbawi soon saw a thriving business, employing 25 workers operating 15 machines that by the early 1990s, produced over 150,000 keffiyehs annually.
The Impending Struggle
Following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the adoption of a free-market policy, the import of cheap imitations, mainly from China, began to flood the market worldwide. By 2010, only four machines remained in operation in the factory, with its annual production dropping to a mere 10,000 kufiyas. None of these kufiyas were exported: on the one hand, overseas suppliers produced mass quantities at a much lower price, and on the other, the dwindling Palestinian economy as well as the Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks and the location of the factory (unjustifiable maltreatment and harassment are inflicted on Palestinians in Hebron daily), created further hindrances to the production and trade of Palestinian small businesses, such as Hirbawi.
A Demand for Authenticity
Since 2010, several international media outlets have covered the story of Hirbawi, warning that the production of the original Palestinian kufiyas risked disappearing. Hirbawi’s factory is now the last remaining in Palestine. However, there is a growing demand to purchase the original 'Hirbawi' as there is an increased international desire for authentic products and an understanding of the need to support small businesses. This raised awareness has encouraged international resellers, such as HirbawiGCC, to begin purchasing and reselling the authentic Hirbawi kufiyas as a show of solidarity, a means to control the ‘fake’ kufiya market, and a way to spread an important message.
Continuing A Legacy
Yasser Hirbawi passed away in 2018 but his legacy lives on. His sons have since taken over the factory and family business as they strive to keep the business alive. Thankfully, it is because of their continued efforts, determination and tenacity as well as the initiatives of international resellers, that sales are on the rise. Recently, the Hirbawi factory were able to hire 4 new staff for the first time in 20 years. With the support of international resellers, Hirbawi hopes to be able to produce surpass their production of the 1990s, create more jobs in Palestine and spread the message of solidarity, keeping a vital and symbolic tradition alive.