The material culture of Jewish communities—their manufactured objects, from day-to-day utensils and ritual objects to architecture— provides ample evidence that they had an ongoing dialogue with the larger gentile community and various degrees of symbiosis with it. Jews adopted many elements of the local lifestyle. They lived in similar houses, used the same furniture, wore similar costumes, and ate similar food. And if one compares the material culture of different Jewish groups—whether Yemenites, Moroccans, Iraqis, or Libyans—one can fairly say that it is closer to the material culture of their country of residence than to that of other Jewish groups.
Two major factors act as unifying agents in Middle Eastern and North African communities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, creating some traits common to diverse local cultures: these Jewish communities lived within Islamic society and culture, where they were a protected minority, and the Jewish communities were affected by modernization. External circumstances as well as Jewish factors determined the diversity of Jewish local culture. External circumstances included the raw materials available, local technologies and artistic styles. In some societies Jews participated in the production of the local material culture, working as craftsmen or artisans, at times side by side with non-Jewish workers. For example, they produced metal inlay work in Damascus, metal thread, embroidery, and leather products in Morocco. Also, non-Muslims usually worked in gold and silver in Islamic societies because the Qur'an prohibited work with precious metals (with certain exceptions, by the Islamic Hadith tradition). As a result Yemen, Kurdistan, Persia, and Iraq had many Jewish and Christian goldsmiths and silversmiths.
In some places Jews were influential in shaping segments of the local material culture, because Jews were the main practitioners of some crafts. As