Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's fashion time!

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but a burkha is not the only item of clothing people wear around here.

Every piece worn by men and women in the UAE has a name and a specific purpose. Let me try to break this info down to you…

The Emirate Men

Kandura or dishdash
Is an ankle-length cloak. The traditional white color is seen throughout the year, especially in the summer months, because it reflects the rays of sun. During the winter, you might catch men in other colors, like brown or grey. It’s amazing how they manage to keep them tidy and clean throughout the day!

Is a headscarf that comes in a series of colors and patterns (most will be plain white or red with white little squares on them).

Is the black rope that ensures the Guthra is always in place. The younger crowd can be seen without the Egal. They simply tie their guthra in a funky way around their head. This is called hamdaniya.

Tarbush or kerkusha
In a way, for some reason, this reminds me a bit of the tie used by some people in Texas, USA – some kind of very small string that flows from the neck.

You will most probably only see a bisht  - sort of like a jacket worn on top of the kandura - on powerful people and on special occasions like holidays, weddings, or on visits to a Sheikh.

Although you might see a few men with regular shoes, you will notice most of them wear sandals (Na-aal).

Ghafyah, Faneel and Woozar
These are three pieces you will probably never see. The Ghafyah is a very light and thin hat that is worn under the guthra. The Faneel is somewhat like a vest and the Woozar is a piece of white cloth tied around the waist under the Kandura.

The Emirate Women

This is a long flowing black gown used by women to cover their clothing. They can be plain black or filled with little beads and other details.

A piece of very thin and smooth materials, like a headscarf, used loosely to cover their heads.

Yes, yes, that is me in the picture (and my sister-in-law trying to adjust my shela)...

Here it is: the famous burkha! It can actually be two things: the covering of the head, except for a slit for the eyes, or a very light fabric with metallic color used to cover part of the face.

A thin black veil that covers a woman’s entire face. You will probably not recognize who is underneath, but they will know who you are.

No, this is not photoshop. She is actually at the beach... Great image caught by the lense of my good friend Erika Lessmann.

Here is some interesting additional information I gathered from my local friends about the way women dress:

- The Holy Quran does not say women should cover their faces and hands. This is merely a custom that dates back to tribal nomadic societies living in the Arabian Desert who used to wear them as protection against dust and sand. Nowadays, it is the women’s fathers and brothers who decide whether or not they should cover their faces and hands. Once they get married, this decision falls upon their husbands. In some cases though, this might simply be a woman’s own personal choice.

- The burkha is never removed. Women who wear a burkha do not reveal their faces to men, including their husbands and children.

- Women must always wear an abaya when out in public. At home, they are allowed to remove it.

- Underneath the abaya, women wear the jillabeeya, a floor length dress which is often decorated in embroidery or beautiful beadwork, or regular western clothes, usually the very lastest in international fasion.

- Yes, it gets hot under the black gown – especially during the summer!


  1. very interesting and educational.

  2. Very interesting and I think it is great how the Nationals keep the Tradition up - it takes only a short while to "remove" such Traditional Clothing from a community - e.g Kimono, Lederhosen, etc :) - and the Dishdash & Abbaya are a important part of their Heritage

  3. Not to be a pain, but the tradition here is only short lived. The dishdash was invented by sheikh zayed, on the purpose of having 'traditional clothing' about 40 years ago...

  4. eu acho muito bonito a forma deles ou delas de vestirem claro sem os excessos. sou evangélica e na minha igreja usa o véu. eu acho muito bonito mas o costume diário pesa um pouco. só uso na igreja. gostaria de saber o significado do véu para eles ou elas pois o apóstolo s. paulo fala muito acerca de tais vestimentas. inclusive o cabelo que foi dado a mulher em sinal de poderio por causa dos anjos pois eles tem cabelo comprido. quero saber o significado do véu.

  5. Olá! Obrigada pela visita!

    Olha, o véu tem uma série de utilidades. Os homens beduínos, por exemplo, usavam a Guthra inicialmente ao redor da face para se proteger do vento, areia e calor do deserto.

    Para as mulheres, o significado é variado, então prefiro antes dar uma pesquisada e falar com algumas locais antes de te responder. Pode deixar que não vou esquecer!

  6. Olá! Demorei um pouquinho, mas realmente queria ter certeza sobre o uso do véu. Conforme eu desconfiava, o uso do véu não é cultural, mas religioso. O Profeta diz que as mulheres devem cobrir todas as partes do corpo, exceto as mãos e a face. Os únicos homens que podem ver são os pai, os irmão, os sobrinhos, os avós e os tios. Espero ter ajudado.