Zain Masri Established the First Digital Palestinian Embroidery Database

by Marwa Mostafa

Award-winning entrepreneur Zain Masri has digitised about 1,000 traditional Palestinian cross-stitch patterns, now available for download from her platform, Tirazain.

Zain Masri still remembers the vibrant feeling of completing her first cross-stitch motif at 7. “For years, it remained my favourite holiday activity at my grandmother’s place in Jordan,” said the 31-year-old. 

Masri, who works in marketing in Dubai, reconnected with her family tradition of cross-stitching Palestinian patterns during the pandemic. “I joined online embroidery communities for inspiration while spending lots of time at home,” she said. Masri quickly realised, however, that there needed to be more high-resolution patterns for the global embroidery community.

“There should be a place for digitalised, printable and freely available patterns as this is cultural heritage,” Masri wondered why she should be waiting for someone to launch such a database.

And so, some 24 years after her grandmother introduced her to tatreez, which is the Arabic term for this traditional type of Middle Eastern needlework, Masri started Tirazain, the first digital embroidery database of traditional Palestinian cross-stitching patterns, including the information on their origin and aesthetic features. Typical examples are palm trees, jagged patterns in different colours or patterns that resemble tiles on the Noble Sanctuary or Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

While Tirazain is Zain Masri’s first private passion project, which won Bronze for the Best Community Engagement in Education, Art and Culture at this year’s Anthem Awards, it is not the first time her projects that promote digital literacy and economic empowerment for Arab women have attracted attention.

For example, her digital skills education programme “Maharat min Google” (Building capabilities with Google) has reached almost two million people in the Middle East, and her YouTube Balata project, a content hub that features hundreds of women entrepreneurs in the Arab World, is widely acclaimed in the Arabic speaking region. 

Over the past couple of years, Zain, who moved to Dubai in 2009, was selected to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and the Arab America Foundation 30 Under 30 list. She has also been appointed a UN Women Advocate and an IMF Youth Fellow. Her two grandmothers in Jordan have much reason to be proud of her.

“I know that for them, understanding the database is far-fetched, but when I showed them some of my finished pieces, they immediately connected with the patterns,” Masri said, adding that “our family tradition lives on, online and offline.”

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