Emirati Clothing – Traditional Dress Wear Of The People In The UAE

Gary Greer 5/3/2020
Arab Culture

Located in the UAE, the city of Dubai has grown into one of the most glamorous cities in the world. It competes with such fashion capitals as New York, Paris, and Milan in recent years. You will see supermodels and ordinary citizens walking the streets of Dubai in their haute couture clothing and designer shoes and accessories. However, among all the glamour of Dubai, you’ll still see most of the country following UAE culture and traditions. The traditional Emirati clothing of the UAE is what we’ll be looking at in this article.

Traditional Emirati Clothing for Men

Traditional men’s clothing is pretty much the same across all of the Emirates. For example, Abu Dhabi men’s dress includes the kandura (also called a thobe) is a long-sleeved, ankle length tunic that resembles a loose-fitting robe. You will find that in like that of Dubai and other cities throughout the UAE. The preferred material is cotton, most commonly in white to help fight off the sun’s rays in the hotter months. However, during the shorter winter season, you’ll find them out of wool in colors of beige, yellow, lavender and blue. As you may have noticed, different countries throughout the Middle East have their own twist on this traditional garment. In the UAE the uniqueness is that it has no collar and often has embroidery on the sleeves.

To top off their outfit, Emirati men wear what they call the ghutra. This is their version of the Palestinian keffiyeh UAE-style. This traditional cloth headdress serves a dual purpose. It protects the wearer from the scorching Emirati sun and also from getting sand in every orifice during ruthless sandstorms. Like the kandura, the conventional ghutra for Emirati men is usually white and made of cotton. It is held in place by the agal, a stiff, black cord that wraps around the head. However, you may also see Emiratis following the fashions of their neighbors. They will be wearing ghutras in a red and white checkered pattern.

Traditional Emirati Clothing for Women

The traditional dress of UAE female Muslims is the plain black abaya. However, many modern styles include flourishes and embroidery on the dark fabric, adding a modern twist to their look. Though many people mistake the abaya for a dress, it isn’t really a dress; rather it is a kind of thin, flowing cloak that covers the woman’s body. In fact, Emirati women wear their actual clothes underneath their abayas, and if truthfully, often wear western-inspired clothing underneath.

In addition to that, they will probably be wearing a headdress called a hijab covering their hair, ears and neck.  However,  the most popular styles of head covering in the UAE is actually called the shayla. It is a long, rectangular scarf that not only covers the head, but also falls below the shoulders as well.

Another word that often gets confused is the burqa. In other parts of the world, the burqa refers to the garment that covers women completely from head to toe. However, in the Emirates, the burqa is a type of veil that looks similar to a visor. It covers a woman’s face from her forehead to her upper lip, yet leaves her eyes exposed so she can see where she is going. Though these burqas may look like they are made of metal, they are, in fact, made out of a metallic like fabric. Though traditional, burqas are often worn by older women, thus are not very popular among young Emirati women and girls.

Traditional Emirati Clothing for Boys and Girls

Despite the abundance of Western clothing in the shopping malls of the UAE, most Emirati boys and girls wear the national dress of their country. This is typically the same traditional clothing as their parents, only smaller in size. Thus, the UAE national dress for boys is also the kandora, ghutra, and agal, while the UAE national dress for girls is the abaya and shayla.

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