‘Like a Warm Hug From an Angel’

Surfacing

For a handful of cultures worldwide, the Arab world among them, these separate blankets provide not only an impenetrable warm, soft hug but a great sense of belonging.

Subhi Taha wanted to give a special thanks last week for what she called “the one and only reason” during which she did not face frost Devastating and deadly winter storm Lately left millions without heat in Texas, where he lives. Taha said, “This thing is a blanket.” TIC Toc, Gesturing for him to print an ornate predatory green and rose pink bedspread with large flowers.

These blankets are “literally life-savers,” said Taha, who calls himself “just an average Muslim-American.” His youtube channel, Where he has about 250,000 followers. “When our heater was down and it was running really cold air,” he said, “this blanket was insulating so effectively, I warmed under it. I got hot!”

If you ever wrap yourself in these absurdly soft, intoxicating hot, highly ornate blankets, you will never go unnoticed. They may not have a widely agreed-upon name (some call them “flower blankets,” “mink blankets,” “ethnic blankets” or, as Taha puts it, “immigrant blankets”), but they are simply no blankets. Are not.

For a handful of cultures around the world, among them the Arab world, tucking into one is a linear link that provides a sense of belonging even from a distance. Their often large-scale patterns, outfitted in a spectrum of colors, embellish the scene of thick, largely concealed Persian rugs that fly from wall to wall in family homes or open-air markets. Among the clothes (among those who receive it).

Their warmth – they are often made of hypofoft polyester fabric called minky that is largely used for baby products – rivals only for many of those with their distinct appearance and tenderness.

“I think they are beautiful things,” Farah Al Qasimi, A Lebanese wealthy artist in New York, recently told me. She has about 10 blankets and is always open to collecting more. Spread across his bed is a watercolor bloom – the blanket is divided into pinks, blues, greens; It is topped with matching (but not very matchable) pillows. She has a pile of them in her studio that she calls a “blanket nest” to drown her and her dog.

“When I sit on one, I feel like I’m falling into a mysterious garden,” she said. “It’s like a warm hug from an angel.”

However, her American sensibility is high when it comes to her mother, Décor, saying that her extended family always had cushions on the floor as well as seating in these traditional clothes.

A Palestinian-American woman, 30-year-old Lana Kesbeh, is a recent resident of Charlottesville. She recently got married and brought two blankets to join her Egyptian husband’s collection. Her father lives at her house, about half a dozen, and her mother also has a couple. Kasebeh takes them on road trips and picnics, and she curls into them for cozy movie nights on winter evenings. They go the whole way, he said, with a hot mug of Netflix and Sahab (a thick, sweet Middle Eastern hot drink that Keshabe expresses as “creamy delicacy”).

She recalled the owner of a Palestinian store in Houston, where she grew up, which ran a wholesale blanket business. Her family bought her “like a dozen”, she said.

Al Qasimi’s collection is a mix of those he bought to move back to the United Arab Emirates and bought close to his apartment in Riddwood, Queens. “There are many stores in and around New York that sell them,” he said, clarifying that he is referring to Outer Borough shops, those in the Jackson Heights and Queens neighborhoods of Ridwood and Also found more densely in the bay Ridge in Brooklyn. They typically cost from $ 30 to $ 50. And while dollar stores sometimes sell cheaper versions, embossing king-size sets can top $ 200. “You wouldn’t really find them in a store in Manhattan,” she said.

25-year-old Ranya Marrachi, who lives in Howard County, MD, picked up a favorite of her seven blankets on a trip to Morocco some time ago where she comes from. Whenever he wants more, however, he has one: his uncle makes them into Tangier. He sent them to various countries in Africa, she said, and to some places in Europe. But mostly, he sells them to owners in Morocco.

While these blankets are produced by major distributors such as Maracchi’s Uncle in the Middle East and Santamora in Egypt, they are more often manufactured in China and Korea and exported worldwide.

“I really think of them as a type of Chinese export that has just happened to make its way into Hispanic homes, Arab homes, Russian homes,” Al Quassimi said. “It’s like this strange cultural relic that crosses geography in so many ways.”

After Taha posted his ticktock, which has been liked nearly 170,000 times, he was surprised when Blanket fans around the world responded. “I had no idea this was a broad, global thing,” he said A later post. “I am half Palestinian and half Filipino, and I know at least in Palestine, these are everywhere.”

Part of the thrill that is woven into these blankets with vibrant fibers is that for decades, they have been given as gifts to celebrate the biggest occasions of life, such as a wedding, sending or celebrating a new baby.

Brides are given a bunch of these blankets to take to their new homes, said 52-year-old Karima Alkerti of Tiffin, Iowa, who has at least two or three in every household in the family in Algeria. When she arrived in the United States in 1995, she realized how much she missed him. So when her husband came to visit her after a few years, she made sure that her sister sent her home. He returned with an earth-toned blanket printed with a thick spouted border. She puts it on her bed during the cold months. “Since then, it’s in my house,” he said. “They are very, very special.”

Salma Jabari, 25, lives in Palestine. His father and brother received blankets as gifts about 12 years ago, when he made a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca that Muslims should perform at least once in their lives. Jabari’s parents moved to Syria from the United States in the late 1980s. The blankets are now kept at their home, folded in the linen closet and used by their entire family.

Perhaps for items that seem like tokens of centuries past, these blankets have not only permeated social media pages like Taha, but have also been meme-ifed like crazy in recent years, with people from many areas where Dear ones – Mexico, China, Korea, South Asia and Russia, besides the Middle East and North Africa – have their personal stamp.

Is an image of the most circulated Homer simpson snoozing Below One – The image changed regularly to show the most familiar patterns of some blankets, such as large flowers or monochromatic tigers and zebras. The extremist message often reads: “be like Arab families in winter.” In many othersThe word “Hispanic,” “Slavic,” “Asian” or more commonly “ethnic” replaces “Arab”. And fans sometimes have to go online to poke fun at the blanket-wearing nature: “They may be ugly but they’re still aristocratic. Comfort level 10000000000, ” Wrote in a tweet.

The more you are familiar with these veils, the more you will recognize them in fashion and art.

Balenciaga sells a bag With a pattern that draws from the classic floral design of the blanket; It was described as “the print inspiration of the flower blanket.” Last year in the Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Salwan Georges, used one of these blankets for a story about Iraqi siblings in Michigan, whose parents Kovid-19 died. And they appeared in one way or another in Al Qasimi’s compositions. “I said I would use the old ones.” “I will reproduce them for sewing projects. I have made the doll out of content. “

While watching the recent Middle Eastern TV show “Avlad Adam” (“Adam’s Children”) on Netflix, Kesbeh noticed that these blankets were used in a scene that takes place in the sleeping quarters of a prison. “Everyone had one of these blankets on their bed!” he said. “I knew they were omnipresent in the Arab world, but did not think that they would even put them in a fictional prison.”

Despite the increasing profile of these blankets in the digital realm, people who want to buy are not available online. “There is something really incredible about him trying to find him on Amazon,” said Al Qasimi. “They don’t really exist on the Internet. They are one of those things that you just have to buy in person.”


Esala Attar and Tala Safi contributed to the research.

Surfacing There is a column that explores the intersection of art and life created by Alicia DeSantis, Jolie Reuben, Tala Safi and Josephine Sedwick.


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