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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Emirati Girls Wear.

Randomgirl asked a question about what Emirati girls and young teens wear, specifically between 5 and 15 years old. I would recommend looking into your library or book store (if you do an online search, just type United Arab Emirates) and you'll find some tourist guides that often have excellent photography of the local population.

Based on my own observations, at about 5 to about 10, the girls generally tend to wear very Western looking clothing, but with long sleeves and generally ankle length skirts or pants/jeans. When they are very young they tend to be in very frilly, cute overly fussy little dresses that can be quite itchy (I speak from experience.)

Here are some adorable pictures I found of little kids in a class dressing up in traditional Arab garb, usually reserved for adults. (However, Emirati men tend to wear the white head dress over the chequered ones pictured... Not always, but usually.)

Photo courtesy of Gulf News. Young ladies at the 2007 Dubai Air Show.

After she has had her period, she may begin wearing the hijab, in this case this involves a sheer black head scarf usually with pretty embroidery on it. Of course younger kids can wear the hijab, but when it comes to Emiratis they don’t tend to wear it until they come of age. Even then, in high school my Emirati friends often let their head scarves slip down off their heads and onto their shoulders. The Emirati girls and women I knew didn't pin the head scarf, they just sat it on their heads and then flipped the two corners over their shoulders, letting it cross over their throat or else wrapping it over their head and under their chin very loosely.

As teenagers, they tended to wear long skirts and long sleeve tops. If they wore jeans, they would wear the abaya on top, which is a very fine black cloak that is usually very figure hugging on the younger women and really quite attractive rather than dark and shapeless.

As they get older, some women choose to wear the gold burqa, or face mask which is more of a fashion accessory than a religious statement (see examples in the aforementioned cute pics of kids). They are often much smaller than that of our grandmothers and show off the woman's eyes and bottom lip quite sexily! Since I last lived there, it seems that more and more young women are covering up more and even wearing the sheer black material over their eyes, or maybe they always did that and I never really noticed as much as I after I left.

Over all, the Emirati teenagers are pretty fashionable and well dressed, which is another reason I never fit in. What a dork I must have looked in my too short cheap jeans and crappy t-shirts next to such elegence in black!

If anyone has better pictures or ideas to share, feel free. It's not easy finding pictures of actual Emirati women as they tend to not get photographed too much and have a little more decorum than I've got.


RandomGirl said...


Gila said...

How long ago did you leave the UAR? Do you wear a hijab now?

Thanks for the article--nice to be able to read about the clothing without any political content....

Cairogal said...

I taught children and college-aged kids in the UAE. I think of all the Gulf Arabs the Emirati women (young women) were the most laxed when it came to the shayla...like you described: sliding down off their heads, around the neck, hair exposed, etc. The other Arab nationalities and Iranians that wore the abaya in the university tended to observe it more strictly. Underneath in the Emirati girls was def. the western style dress of jeans, tighter shirts, etc. Many of the girls would let their abayas hang open a bit. I'm sure I have photos of my "girls" somewhere, but wouldn't want to post them to a public site. Like your said, Arab chick, the abayas were quite pretty, actually...if you've got curves they're very flattering and elegant.

TeacherLady said...

Randomgirl, anytime.

Gila, I left the UAE almost a decade ago. And no, I don't wear the hijab. Glad you enjoyed it, I wrote it in a bit of a hurry so I'm sure there's more I could have said.

Cairogal, if only I could wear an abaya and wear it well, I'd never have to iron again!

Forsoothsayer said...

i knew it! a gulfie. we rock.

PennyZ said...

Hello. Just Googling around for photos of traditional Emirati attire and came across your blog. Nicely written. I am an Ex-pat living in Dubai, I am hoping to have an abaya made for my nieces back in Canada as part of their cultural education school project (and my own education too!) Cheers!

Anonymous said...

erm..the abaya and hijab is the islamic dress..not our traditional dress.
plz don't confuse tradition and religion.

our traditional clothes are arabian thoub and jalabiyah.. and other things not the abaya and hijab.
btw the niqab came from afghanistan and pakistan it's not originally arab but some women choose to wear it here

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

@anon: No one made any reference to Islamic dress.

kate007 said...

@Anonymous "erm..the abaya and hijab is the islamic dress..not our traditional dress.
plz don't confuse tradition and religion. "

actually its the other way around. abaya and hijab or "shelah" are old traditional clothes. i think it help to cover up the body. however, it is NOT an islamic dress. otherwise all muslims around the world would wear it. the point for women in islam is to cover up by wearing any type of clothes.

anyways, emiratie girls can wear any type of clothes underneath the abaya. they usually wear jeans, tops, accessories.. etc.

in the other hand, like any other women. emirati girls do NOT wear abaya n shelah or cover up at home or with friends or when they are in a place the involves only women. they just wear whatever they want.

hope this helps
thank u

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