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02 September, 2006

A swirl of sequins

A noticeable change in the sandlands in the past five years is the increasing ornamentation on abayas, the traditional dress of Gulf national women. Typically black, with a matching hijab that can be worn in a number of ways, the abaya five years ago was a relatively plain garment compared to now. Back then, younger women maybe sported a few discreet sequins on their hems, or perhaps some subtle embroidery around the cuffs, but the overall impact was plain and black.

Today, abayas are glittering, lavishly ornamented works of couture. Decoration is no longer subtle, with sequins, beads, embroidery and crystals glittering all over. Abayas are also much more colourful, even garish: while the background remains black, patterns are larger with much more varied hues. Fabrics are filmier and floatier. The result is that abayas are often far more stylish, flamboyant and eye-catching than everyday western dress.

In the window of one boutique in Mall of the Emirates there is an abaya with a huge, leopard-print star positioned slap bang on the backside, a kind of X-marks-the-spot. It makes one wonder what's next - a zebra-striped heart on the mons veneris, or tiger-skin tassles on the nipples?

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21 Comments:

Blogger Dubai@Random said...

Once, the abaya was an inexpensive garment to be worn outside the home.

Now the abayas vary from a few euros to thousands of euros.

To a western male ex-pat, they all look exactly the same, but to a western female, there are subtle differences, and to a Citizen, there are obvious distinctions.

Which some say defeats the purpose of the abaya, and some say is the purpose of the abaya.

02 September, 2006 22:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't the purpose of this idiotic cloth not to attract attention? Religious hypocrisy in the Middle East never ceases to surprise me

03 September, 2006 01:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mons Veneris, NICE.... That will get alot of people doing google searches!

03 September, 2006 12:29  
Blogger SIN said...

C'mon Anon (at 01.55), it's hardly an 'idiotic' cloth - and i know many muslim women who will resent that remark.
But, yes the abaya and the shela are marks of decorum, but today it has become more of a style statment that fulfills the role of an attention-grabber, especially when you are competing with the style statements of the hot pants and cropped tees brigade.

03 September, 2006 14:39  
Blogger Desert Lady said...

It's all about the bling! And why not I say!

Uncalled for words from Anon there.

03 September, 2006 15:45  
Blogger shansenta said...

Abaya is one of the commonest examples of commercialisation of conservatism.... or shall I say consumerism of culture!!

In some GCC countries I have seen abayas with just one button on the front... looked like a high-fashion evening dress!! And it is secretly known that often abaya is the only "dress" worn among the fashionable movers and shakers in some cities !

A few years ago, Western Expat women wearing decent but "skin-baring" dresses were banned from public places and malls in Sharjah. However I fail to understand why do the same "thought police" turn a blind-eye to the revealing / fashionable abayas available in the market - or women wearing them! Don't these things make a big joke of the very sacred values that these abayas are supposed to upheld?

03 September, 2006 17:41  
Blogger Al Sinjab said...

I saw that tiger rhinestone abaya!!! Those tiger eyes caught my gaze in Carrefour. When I complemented the fashionista on her abaya, I noticed that she had a matching tiger skin purse.

I think it's testimony to the human spirit that individualism and creativity seeps through no matter what the uniform is.

03 September, 2006 18:57  
Blogger Vikram said...

Well the mons veneris is a term for animals... it is reffered to as the mons pubis ib mamalls such as humans.

03 September, 2006 19:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic...another contradiction in this country (well, at least to me...). See how anything related to sex is banned in this country (edited love scenes in the movies, kiss scenes deleted from sitcoms on OneTV, internet censorship of any site coming close to "erotic" (www.flickr.com...) and then you find "sex toys" like Durex Play (vibrations) or delay spray in any Emarat station... Of course, it is positive but does it make sense/is it consistent with the rest ?

03 September, 2006 19:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am one of those muslim females which still wears a plain abbaya without half a haberdashery stuck to it. I would just just like to point out that these dresses which are worn in public are NOT abbaya, we do not class them as abbayas and they should not be refered to as such!

03 September, 2006 21:34  
Blogger shansenta said...

I fully agree with Anonymous commented at 21:34.... but who's listening? Just a short trip one of teh few "Abbaya" shops in many malls would defy the logic of wearing an abbyah!

03 September, 2006 21:56  
Blogger AUH said...

A tight abaya - an oxymoron if ever i heard one

03 September, 2006 23:11  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Not really. I've encountered a stretchy fish-net abaya before. I shit you not. And the girl wearing it was Saudi.

03 September, 2006 23:15  
Blogger I Have a Dream said...

loved the readers' recommendations on the left side.. can we place them on a good pink abaya?

04 September, 2006 06:36  
Blogger I Have a Dream said...

It'll be interesting to see what will happen in the next few years in the region. My friend was telling me about his trip to Jordan.. He said that he noticed lots of girls who were wearing the hijab, covering their hair, but also wearing short sleeve t shirts..



back to the abayas.. i personally percieve the abaya to be one way to show religious modesty.. but abayas in themselves are part of the region's arab traditions--- not the islamic dress code! .. still, this doesnt mean that its not important.

04 September, 2006 06:49  
Blogger kaya said...

One good thing about abayas tho.
They are wonderful for wedgies!

05 September, 2006 10:12  
Blogger Nesa Simon David said...

@anonymous:
no matter how much bells & whistles & frills are on an abaya, an abaya is an abaya... for every time you claim that "oh that's not a TRUE ABAYA (TM)", there's someone claiming that YOUR abaya isn't the true one

anyways, nothing new here.. the middle east is growing up slowly (slower than the western civilization) and leaving all the superstitions of 1400 years ago behind.

11 September, 2006 12:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I've watched the M.E. "come of age" or should that be 'going backwards by going forwards'? To me these abayas are the M.E. equivalent of 'virgin in the parlour/whore in the bedroom'. Say they,"Look (O Potential Partners,O Eligible Bachelors)see I'm a Good Girl, I wear an abaya but I'm funky/flirty/fashionable too!" Why don't these girls just put on a miniskirt & be done with it? And the school marm Margery wonders why she can't bag a Dish Dash when there are these coy lovelies (g)littered around the place?

-Say me of the miniskirt-to-RealAbaya(TM)

12 September, 2006 01:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Nesa Simon David
Don't u dare call the teachings of Islam "Superstitions of 1400 years ago" !
For everyone else who claims that the Middle East has a religious hypocracy, well, look at your own countries/religions first! That's the case everywhere . . .
Respect the country and the people of the country you're living in !

06 April, 2007 23:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone just wanted to comment people are laways pointing out dicriminating others abayas are meant to protect the chastity of the women it can be decorative only itshouldnt be offensite or revealing as i feel.

women in any religion has to be chaste and nowerdays men wants to hide their own siters , wife from grabbing any ones attention but they keep a lust eyes on other felames, even men should have chaste eyes.

a guy who is waiting to see the transformation of each and every human being , if we change ourself we can change the world,

10 June, 2007 23:20  
Anonymous arab visitor said...

yes it is so strange. you can find prostitutes in the streets of dubai and all uae but there is a strong proxy on the net. just strange and contradiction.

21 July, 2007 15:51  

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