Discovering More .... Dubai


Emirati Dress

One of the first things you will notice when you visit the UAE is that many nationals are wearing their national dress. They are proud of being Emirati and wearing national dress is a way of demonstrating this. Whilst you can buy national dress as a souvenir, it is suggested that you avoid wearing it in the UAE - it could be seen as disrespectful and you would be expected to speak Arabic.



Women wear a black abaya and cover their hair. Muslim ladies are required to dress modestly and cover their hair and the national dress helps them to achieve this - the black abaya is NOT a Muslim requirement just their national dress. Non Emirati Muslim ladies meet this requirement in a wide variety of ways - including jeans, long sleeved T-shirts and scarves.

The black abaya is often decorated along the edges with coloured embroidery, crystals or pearls. Traditionally, the garments worn beneath the black abaya are simple and aesthetically pleasing. They are often embroidered with the craft locally known as telli using coloured threads, mainly gold and silver. Demand for this type of embroidery usually increases on special occasions before feasts and during the wedding season.

The traditional garments for women include:

· Kandoura or shift, finely embroidered around the sleeves and neck

· The thawb, a long tunic which goes over the kandoura

· The abaya, the loose fitting outer garment which is worn outside the house

· The sheila, a large piece of black fabric up to 2 m long, which covers the woman’s head and part of her face in public

· The burga, one of the oldest traditional items of dress, is a mask once worn by girls when they came of age. Nowadays it is mainly worn by the older generation. The inside surface of the mask 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.

Many women in Dubai are very fashion conscious and some are more lax than others in their approach to wearing the abaya and covering their hair. You may glimpse designer jeans and expensive high heels under their black coverings. Most malls have Arabic clothing shops and the variety of edges available is vast. Girls do not have to cover up until they reach puberty.

Ladies can still go swimming, they have costumes that cover them completely.



Emirati men wear a long-sleeved, ankle length shirt known as a kandoura or thawb. In Dubai it is often called a dishdasha. White is the most popular colour – although cream is popular and occasionally you do see darker colours. It is surprising how many different shades of white and cream that there are - have a look in a tailors and see the bolts of cloth stacked up.

On their head men were:

· 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. It usually matched the kandoura. The type of ghitra changes according to personal preference, occasion and season

· The shal is a ghitra made of woollen cashmere and is produced in different patterns and colours

· The shimagh is the same size as the ghitra, but produced in white and red coloured patterns

· The iqal, or circular rope of twisted wool. Holds the headgear in place and it is usually black or white in colour. This used to be the rope used to hobble their camels at night when they were nomads in the desert.

Ni’al. or sandals, are the footgear most commonly worn in the UAE

Other traditional garments for men include:

· The besht is a long robe worn over the kandoura, unique to the UAE and the Arabian Gulf countries. The besht denotes status and authority and is usually worn at religious feasts, weddings and formal public celebrations. When you see pictures of Sheikh Mohammed abroad or welcoming visiting heads of state you can see the besht.

· A light shirt called a muqassar is worn beneath the outer garments

· The tarboushah, or farroukha as it is known in the UAE, is a decorative tassel that hangs from the collar of the kandoura. In the past this would give a clue to the tribe the wearer belongs to.



Tourist can buy National Dress to wear at home






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