Dress traditions in the UAE
The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (adach.ae) published some very interesting leaflets about Emirati customs and culture, so I thought it would be interesting to share them on the blog. Most of the data below has been taken from these pamphlets.
Emirati dress reflects the climate of the country as well as the Arab and Islamic customs.
Women’s clothing are adaptable, loose-fitting and often decorated with bright colours. The garments worn beneath the black abaya are simple and often embroidered with the craft locally known as telli, using coloured threads, mainly in gold and silver. Demand for this type of embroidery usually increases on special occasions, such as before feasts or during the wedding season.
Traditional garments for women include:
– The kandoura, or shift, finely embroidered around the sleeves and neck.
– The thawb, a long tunic which goes over the kandoura.
– The abaya, a loose-fitting outer garment which is worn outside the house.
– The sheila, a large piece of black fabric up to 2 metres long, which covers the woman’s head and part of her face in public.
– The burga’, one of the oldest traditional dress items, is a mask which was once worn by girls when they came of age, but today is mostly worn by the older generation. The interior is rubbed smooth using oyster shell or stone, and painted with indigo dye, believed to have a beautifying and whitening effect on the skin. The usual colours of the burga’ are red and gold.
Every day dress for Emirati men is a long-sleeved, ankle-lenght shirt, known as a kandoura or thawb. White is the most popular colour, but in winter, when the temperatures are cooler, other colours can be seen (for instance brown, or blue). Different colours often indicate different materials.
Men’s headgear includes:
– The takiya or gahfiya, a small, knitted cap that covers the hair and keeps the ghitra in place.
– The ghitra is a square piece of cotton, folded into a triangle and used to cover the head, usually matching the kandoura. The type of ghitra changes according to personal preference, occasion or season.
– The shal is a ghitra made of woolen cashmere and is produced in different patterns and colours.
– The shimagh is the same size as the ghitra, but mostly it is produced in white and red coloured patterns.
– The iqal is a circular rope of twisted wool, and holds the headgear in place. It is usually black or white.
Ni’al, or sandals, are the most common footgear worn in the UAE.
Other traditional garments for men include:
– The besht, a long robe worn over the kandoura, unique to the UAE and the Arabian Gulf countries. The besht denotes status and authority, and it is usually worn at religious feasts, weddings or formal public celebrations.
– A light shirt called a muqassar is often worn beneath the outer garments.
– Lastly, the tarboushah, or farroukha as it is known in the UAE, is a decorative tassel that hangs from the collar of the kandoura.