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22 December, 2006

Baniyas in pajamas

Western expats are often bemused the first time they receive an invitation with the instruction: "National dress/Lounge suit". National dress is not something that really exists in the West, except perhaps as Scottish kilts, or Morris-dancing costumes.

But Gulf national dress - the white dishdash for men, and the black abaya for women - is still by far the most commonly worn clothing among GCC nationals. Marks & Spencer even has a special uniform abaya for female Emirati employees, with M&S green logo trim around the cuffs. Certain government departments and local companies also require national dress to be worn by UAE nationals, as seen in this BBC article:

Pyjama ban for UAE civil servants

The Gulf emirate of Ras al-Khaimah has introduced a new dress code targeted in part at people wearing pyjamas to work.

The head of the emirate's personnel department was quoted as saying that large numbers of civil servants were wearing sleeping clothes and pyjamas.

Starting on 1 January 2007, civil servants in the emirate will have to wear national dress - a long white robe for men and the black abaya for women.

In actual fact the people of Ras Al Khaimah are the Qasimi tribe not the Bani Yas, and the "pajamas" most likely refers to the shalwars worn by Asian expatriates, but let us not let accuracy stand in the way of a blindingly good pun.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pajama is also a hindi/urdu slang word for a dumb person.
So the title comes around a full circle.

22 December, 2006 02:00  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

The head of the emirate's personnel department was quoted as saying that large numbers of civil servants were wearing sleeping clothes and pyjamas.

Given the most common activity taking place amongst UAE civil servants whilst at work, this is an undeniably sensible choice of attire.

22 December, 2006 03:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can call an Abaya an Abaya, then why do you call a kandoora a dishdash?
I do not know of any locals who know what the term 'dishdash' means, unless of course they have had the misfortune to have been asked about their 'dishdash', which usually makes their minds boggle for a few seconds.
My son got so irritated when he wore his Kandoora to his school concert and the British kids insisted that it was called a dishdash, even when he corrected them. This is Jumeirah for you.

22 December, 2006 09:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure about the RAK government employees but i have seen one or the other local female staff in my company wear their sleeping attire under their abayas - and they even admit it. Ok, it does not always happen, only when they woke up late (so they claim).

I found it strange but not really disturbing...hey, they came to work after all and did not decide to stay in.

22 December, 2006 10:24  
Blogger nzm said...

Great title!

22 December, 2006 11:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baniya - also means grocer in hindi

therefore baniyas in pajamas = grocers in pajamas

As for the kandoora's being called dishdash. Even though I commonly call that attire kandoora myself. In primary school , our books taught us to call it a 'Dishdash'. Books which were published by the ministry of education in Dubai. There were called Social Studies books.

And yes, wherever I've worked I've had colleagues admit wearing sleepwear under their abayas.

22 December, 2006 16:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tailoring shops seem to prefer the term "Dishdasha" or "Deshdasha", judging from their signboards.

The great thing about the abaya is that you can wear anything or nothing, under it. Depends on what you plan to do. Anyway, why look under someone's abaya (unless you're exceedingly curious)?

23 December, 2006 12:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kara bang nang apong mong jing heehi ho. yaY PINOYS KABANG APO!!!!!!


24 December, 2006 00:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harsha.. would you mind mentioning which Social Studies book referred to the Kandoora as a Dishdash...I mean in which system of education. I hope its not CBSE . I would have been a very careless learner if it was , because I never came across the word dishdash before I saw it first on SD'd blog.

24 December, 2006 09:30  
Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

So while nationals are being instructed to wear attire that is entirely appropriate for the climate, expatriates are obliged to sweat in garments devised for a wet winter Wednesday in Wigan.

24 December, 2006 09:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Primary school doesnt necessarily adhere to a board. Well yes CBSE was one of them. But this book wasnt for a specific board or school. Just like the Arabic text books are prescribed by the local ministry of education so were those books. Till about 4th grade.

to be exact, the term was 'DISHDASHA'

24 December, 2006 12:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome crap from Sharjah (~67MB)

24 December, 2006 13:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Best wishes for a very Merry Chrsitmas and a peaceful New Year and thanks for many great posts.

24 December, 2006 15:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A memo was sent to everyone in our company two months back stating 'Although there is no strict dress code, it is now policy that ethnic clothing, jeans, trainers and mini skirts are not allowed.'

I still come to work a wearing kandoora and guthra and others still wear jeans, with not a word in obejection from management. I think 'ethnic wear' (like in the case of the RAK employees), refers to Pakistani/Indian dress.

I will remain anonymous for this post, coz my boss actually reads this blog, and my own on her lunch break ;-)

24 December, 2006 16:08  
Blogger Nesa Simon David said...

if you don't like it, LEAVE!!!

25 December, 2006 10:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its unlikely that the pj's in question refer to the shalwars of the asian expats since the offending employees have to now wear local garb. I've never seen a firm encourage asians to wear the kandoora - its unlikely that the RAK govt would be the first

25 December, 2006 13:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL Nesa Simon David :-) This phrase has become so common these days that I believe the tag line for Dubai should be changed from Dubai - The City That Cares to Dubai - If You Don't Like It, LEAVE!!!

Merry Christmas everyone!

26 December, 2006 08:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous....Harsha already mentioned the Social Studies books were those prescribed by the Ministry of Education, UAE...incidentally, these books are compulsorily icluded in the curricula of English medium schools in the UAE, and I think they go all the way ap to 7th grade, at least (I could check, with just a phone call home...)

26 December, 2006 10:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The great thing about the abaya is that you can wear anything or nothing, under it.

if u wear nothing under it then be careful on a windy day...

28 December, 2006 12:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an insulting title. Your lame pun has also insulted two major local tribes, who regardless of how much you want us to "lighten up" would take great offense at such a mix-up. Not ok. You obviously know nothing about the history of this region beyond the past 30 odd years, and the relations between the Bani Yas and the Qawasim. To you we may seem like every other local, but to us these names are our legacies that you just piss on, all the while complaining that this country has no "genuine history" (read: a magic carpet ride through the oil oasis to meet your ethnic harem of veiled camels)

Go ahead, "moderate" this comment to continue in the further sterilization of what was once a great blog. Your "moderation" reminds me of the censorship habits of the very evils you claim to oppose.

Eidkum Mbaarek, bitches.

30 December, 2006 03:56  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I find it hard to have any sympathy for your opinion, "annoyed local", given you put an obscenity in the same line as a religious greeting.

But as you can see, I did approve your comment. To shame you as the abusive, insulting moron that you are.

30 December, 2006 04:31  
Blogger Mme Cyn said...

It is to laugh. Yes, I reckon they mean the shalwar, BUT --

Not two weeks ago I had not one but two students (Emirati women) come to the university with their PJs on under their abayas. I caught a glimpse of Hello Kitty flannel and asked. She said, yes, she was cold and didn't want to undress out of her warm PJs. The other one (red flannel floral) said she had gotten up late and didn't have time to dress. However, when I suggested that she had had time to put on her full face, she looked at me in horror -- of COURSE she couldn't go out of the house without her makeup on! Tee hee.

01 January, 2007 20:33  
Blogger secretdubai said...

The thought of going out to work/school/whatever without changing my bedclothes and taking a shower is more than a little unpleasant.

01 January, 2007 20:40  

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