Last week at the Mall, I took a few mall scenes, trying to surreptitiously capture the locals. Often I find the traditional dress beautiful, but I don’t quite have it in me to ask the black-draped covered women or the men in their crisp whites for close-ups. So I catch them gliding by, peering into phones, waiting in lines.
I really like to people watch and as you can see by the woman looking over the banister, they like to do that too.
There is some kind of ineffable quality to the traditional dress.
The woman move in this especially elegant way. The way they hold themselves and their designer purses, how they walk with heels poking out of the black silky robes, screams class and sophistication.
The people who live in the area of the Persian Gulf- called here the Arabian Gulf- typically wear the traditional thwabs and abayas. Thwab is the white male garment, and it has different names in different countries. In the UAE, I have heard it named kandorah or dishdasha most often. It is said that the head dress of the man used to indicate what gulf country he is from, but is now more of a style choice.
This satellite image shows the sand dunes in the Empty Quarter:
This is one of the reasons wearing ankle length clothing that covers your arms and legs makes a lot of practical sense. You are protected from the blowing sand and harsh sun.
Now people are not living in the carpeted, nomadic tents of the bedouin tribes they come from.
Men do hunt and dune bash, but the dress is more a source of cultural pride and can be a kind of status symbol. The leading couture designers of the West produce abayas and kandorahs.
Of course the clothing has taken on religious significance and can be very contentious politically.
Here it is just totally normal.
I liked the way the line of woman were passing the line of the men in white, with the checkered floor in the back ground.
The men and the women have different ways of styling the head scarves. Men have these knitted caps, ghafiyah. It is a Muslim prayer hat, which reminds me of the Jewish one called a kippa. The ghafiya also holds the cloth headscarf in place. The scarf is called guthra and also has a black cord, the egal, that ties everything in place. When they were bedouins, not that long ago, living in the desert, the egal was used to tie up their camel’s feet.
The men’s guthras are typically white or red and white checkered. There are so many ways to wear the guthra, these three pics from the internet are just a small sampling. The top one, ‘cobra style’ is from Stephanie Ravel and her project, “Typology: My ghutra is me” . The second is a press shot about a Omar Borkan Al Gala, an actor who is so handsome, he was kicked out of Saudi Arabia and the third is the Prince of Dubai, Hamdan.
The shayla is the part of the women’s abaya that covers her head and these are also worn in a variety of styles. A large bun is sometimes constructed beneath the shayla to give it more height.
Some younger woman nowadays wear the robe, but leave their hair flowing free.
Older woman have these bronze pieces that cross their face. It was the traditional style, but I have only seen it on the older woman.
I could never take the photo below, of a woman who covers her whole face, except the eyes, because I wouldn’t have the guts to ask for permission.This is also a common style here and one that makes me much more uncomfortable. Not to say it is wrong. It just makes me personally more uncomfortable. I am also uncomfortable with leggings as pants paired with crop tops, or booty shorts with butt cheeks hanging out. Also high waisted pants. Why are these making a comeback?