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Traditional Emirati Clothing

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The history of traditional Emirati Clothing originates from Bedouins and reigns supreme on modesty for both men and women. It represents the culture and religion of the region, and also happens to be suitable for the high-temperature climate.

A majority of Emirati’s still wear the traditional clothing, especially when and where it is required, despite the western influence.

Here are the basics of what you need to know about traditional Emirati clothing.

Traditional Emirati Men’s Clothing

  • Kandura / Dishdasha: The traditional Emirati male clothing is a long robe called the kandura or dishdasha. It is traditionally in the colour white, but there are other colours, like grey and brown, which are more likely to be worn during the winter months. The length of the kandura is typically ankle length, however, those who have a royal or wealthy status wear longer robes.
  • Ghutra/Keffiyeh: The kandura is traditionally worn with a white or red and white checked cloth draped over the head called the ghutra or keffiyeh, which is held in place by a headband the agal. These headdresses are typically worn to protect the face from blowing dust and the harsh rays of the sun.
  • Bisht: The Bisht is a jacket-like garment worn over the Kandura. It is often worn by wealthy or royal figures and also on special occasions like weddings or festivals.

Traditional Emirati Women’s Clothing

  • Abaya: Abayas are long, black flowing dresses that cover the body except for the face, feet and hands. Tradition considers black abayas to be socially conservative. However, there are now various designs and colours that include embroideries and embellishments. It is common for women to wear western outfits underneath their abaya.
  • Shela (Shayla): Women who follow the traditional dress standards usually wear a headscarf called Shela, also known as Shayla, to cover the hair. It is a lightweight material that is commonly black and worn with the abaya. A majority of women choose to wear designer scarves, like Dior, as an alternative.
  • Gishwa: For more traditional women, a gishwa is a more modest option that acts as a veil to cover the entire face, with a thin enough fabric to still be able to see through it. This is more popular among older women.
  • Burqa: Another traditional piece of Emirati clothing that is more modest is called the burqa. This type of headscarf or hijab covers the entire face and body, only revealing the eyes. It is worn over the abaya and is also common among older women.

Traditional Emirati clothing needs to be well taken care of to remain neat and presentable. Clothing can be cleaned carefully at home or taken to a Laundryheap for professional laundry and dry cleaning service.

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