With the UAE being a strict Muslim country, everywhere you go you see people in traditional dress. The most I knew about it really was that it causes offence in the Western World. So, I naturally wanted to find out more. While at the Mosque on Saturday I had chance to speak to our tour guide and ask questions that you couldn’t really ask a random on the street.
Here is what I found out. I would also like to say that I have more questions since, and will endeavour to find out the answers to those at some point too.
It is called an Abaya in Saudi and the UAE, but in the western world is mostly known as the Burqa as that is the name used in Afghanistan. It is the long black kaftan that Muslim women wear over “normal” clothes. There is also the headscarf, or hijab. According to the guide, it is personal choice whether a lady will wear it or not. However, he did point out that a woman should respect the wishes of her husband or father and that they will often ‘prefer’ her to wear it.
The abaya and hijab are the norm. As well as the abaya and hijab of that is the face veil, or niqab, which only leaves the eyes on show.
There are a number other forms of niqab available. There is the one where there is stitching or a piece of material between the eyes. This covers the forehead as well. It is to make sure that the veil doesn’t slip and expose more than it should.
Then there is the full face veil, or boshiya. It literally covers everything. Eyes as well. I am still trying to figure out how they see. It looks like the same material as the rest, no thinner, so perhaps they can’t? Quite often the ladies that wear this, or the veil with the forehead covered will also wear gloves, or gafaaz.
Then there is the cage. I haven’t seen a cage yet so can not fully explain it. It does however sound archaic and scary.
So, that really is the women’s clothes. I personally think that people should wear what they like and as long as they are comfortable we should leave them be. I don’t like the idea of people being forced into wearing the whole get up if they don’t want to, but mostly they have been bought up to expect to wear it so know no different.
And then there is the mens clothes. For those of you who don’t know, that is the white ‘dress’ which is called a kandura or dishdasha, red and white ‘tea towel’ or Guthra and black rope or Egal holding the kandura in place.
Now for the background explanations:
Ok, so I didn’t ask much!
Both the material for the kandura and the ladies abaya’s were the lightest material that could be found on the Indian textiles ships that came by back in the day. The men have white garments as they were outside all day working. Simply, the white reflects the sun. I don’t know why the women had black cloth. Perhaps because they are traditionally housebound, and being out in all black is a very warm experience.
The different neck line of your kandura indicates which country you are from. He did tell me the differences, but my head was way too full at that point to take it in.
The egal is to surprisingly heavy. It is to keep the guthra in place so it needs to be. It dates back to the time when time began I guess. Not only does it keep your guthra in place, but when you needed to stop for a break, it untwists and they would put their camels two front feet through it to stop them moving away while you were snoozing!
The way a man wore is egal would show you where he was from. Now it is purely up to the wearer. Most people appear just to have it flat around their heads.
The guthra comes in numerous colours, but the main ones are black, white and red and white. Eons ago the colour of your guthra would indicate what your job was, or what your position in society was. White was generally royalty or the seriously weathly. No idea about the red and white. Again, it is a fashion choice now rather than a symbol.
Occasionally you will see a man with a necklace type thing on. I have no idea what this one is called, and all the googling I have done trying to find it has not been fruitful. Anyway, it’s basically an incense holder. Dating back to the dawn of time again, they were filled with incense so that when you were walking with camels and the ‘natural’ smell of the animals became too much, you could just waft the pendant under your nose and forget about how bad it all was!
So, that is everything I have discovered about traditional dress over here. I am sure I will have got some of the names wrong, but I did try to google them to back myself up. It was fairly interesting to try and spell the things phonetically and then see what the search came back with!!!