Syria is a moderately large country that includes many different religious and ethnic groups. You will hear of Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Armenians, Circassians, and Turkmen who differ in cultural traditions. As a result, writing about the subject of traditional Syrian clothing can prove to be challenging. There is more than one Syrian way to dress. It ranges from city to city and from region to region. Also, different tribes and villages have their own distinctive patterns, designs, and colors of clothing.
If you go to the cities of Deir ez-Zor, Palmyra, and Raqqah in Eastern Syria, for example, you will probably see more Syrian traditional tribal style of dress. Women typically wear long black garments called abayas that cover them from shoulders to their ankles. They also wear a head and face cover that leaves only the eyes peeking out. Underneath all of these coverings, however, she may be wearing a traditional Arabian dress with intricate beading. Or maybe even the latest fashion from the West.
Men traditionally wear long garments called kaftans. These are often white in the summer and made of darker colors and a heavier fabric in the winter. They also wear a three-piece head cover called a taqiyah. The base of it is a white cap with holes used to hold hair in place. On top is a scarf-like head cover called a gutrah. This is also white in the summer. Men also usually wear a checkered red and white pattern in the winter called a shmak. Both the gutrah and the shmak are used to protect the head from the sun and to cover the mouth and nose in the event of a sandstorm. Topping off all of these is the rigid black circular chord that holds it all in placed called the ogal.
If we head to cities like Idlib and Aleppo, we’ll find them to be more modern but generally range from conservative to liberal. Idlib, of course, is the more conservative of the two cities as Aleppo has a more significant number of Christians. Combined with a huge Armenian population, this allows them to usually just dress in Western-style clothing.
Other Syrians cities such as Hama are a dichotomy; being very conservative Syrians, but tending to prefer modern Western attire. Their women favor bright colors, jewelry, makeup, and high heels, whereas their men wear dressy slacks and shirts. However, blue jeans and t-shirts are rare, as are shorts and miniskirts and bare shoulders or upper arms for women.
Further west, into the cities of Tartous and Latakia, you’ll also find a wide range of dress from conservative to liberal. However, actually tend to dress more liberal with no real restrictions on clothing at all.
In north-eastern Syria, the Kurds also have their own cultural dress codes, and they generally dress more liberal as they are more relaxed in their religious ideologies.
Finally, there’s Damascus, the melting pot of Syria. Because Damascus is a blend of all of the cultures and traditions of Syria, it’s here you’ll find everything. Women’s clothing range from full black veils known as niqab to Western-style.
As a general rule, you could say that most Syrians in urban cities dress Western or modern and the rural areas it differs, ranging from conservative, traditional dress to the modern, more Western style.
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