Jordan’s culture is a pleasant mix of old and new. The Jordan capital, Amman, has rapidly become one of the most sophisticated cities in the Middle East. However, as with other aspects of their culture, how Jordanians dress varies throughout the Hashemite Kingdom. For example, in big cities, it’s natural for people to dress in a more Western style. However, in rural areas Jordanians and Bedouin alike wear more traditional clothing.
Most Jordanian clothes for men wear a long-sleeved one piece robe that covers the whole body called a dishdashah or thoub. In summertime, the dishdashah is of white cotton to reflect sunlight. In the winter, darker, heavier fabrics keep the wearer warmer.
Along with the dishdashah, men also wear a head cover consisting three pieces. The bottom piece of this head covering – the thagiyah – is a white cap. Sometimes it has holes to hold the hair in place. On top of the thagiyah is a scarf-like headcover that comes in two types. It’s either a light, white headcover – the gutrah – which people wear in summer. During winter, Jordanians switch to a heavy red and white checkered head covering – the shumag or keffiyeh.
Traditional women’s clothing in Jordan is quite unique. The most traditional clothing has along rectangular opening slit or decorative panel on the front of the dresses. Women wear handmade embroidered dresses sometimes with a hijab in colors of black and red, as well as incorporation of gold at times. However, as we mentioned before, this varies throughout the regions of Jordan.
Costumes in northern Jordan are called shirsh . They are usually the same length all around with long, tight sleeves and a low, embroidered neckline. The hem and the sides of the costume usually contain intricate embroideries with beautiful designs.
The traditional dresses of central and southern Jordan, on the other hand, are sometimes double the ordinary length, with long pointed sleeves. These double dresses ( the thob ‘ub or “folded dresses”) look like they are made of way too much material than is possible for a garment. As one legend goes, these double dresses should be as long as the living room of the lady wearing them. Thus the longer the dress, the longer the living room, the bigger the house, and the higher her social status.
These thob ‘ub dresses also come in a variety of styles. These include some that were massive along the body with humongous sleeves that doubled as a headdress or as shopping baskets. Others, like the berame had long lengths of embroidery running from the chest down to the folded hem but much smaller winged sleeves.
These traditional dresses were popular among Jordanian Bedouin tribes as well as in the cities of Karak and Salt. Usually, people wear it with a rectangular black or red silk and metallic brocade scarf – the ‘asbe harir. You can usually see them rolled up and wound around the head with the tassels falling down the center of the back.
If you’d like to see some of these costumes up close, the Museum of Popular Traditions in Amman has Jordanian clothes costumes beautifully displayed. Check it out the next time you’re in town.
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