Traditional Clothing in UAE

Dishdasha (Creative Commons / Mary Paulose)
Dishdasha (Creative Commons / Mary Paulose)

There is always a big question mark whenever the topic of traditional clothing in the United Arab Emirates crops up. Other than Islam followers, not many are aware of the Arabic style of clothing typical to Muslim culture. With the exception of Dubai, remaining Emirates in the UAE are conservative in regards to their style of dressing and to a certain extent strictly adopt what modesty in Islamic text offers.

Dubai attracts many outsiders such as tourists and expats, thus keeping its clothing styles lenient. Although western style of dressing such as t-shirts, long skirts and trousers are permitted, women are expected to keep their skin covered. To sum it up, anything and everything goes as long as you remember that you are in a progressive yet Islamic Emirate.

Islamic / Traditional Clothing are styled in context with what is to be worn during the day, in the night and for religious occasions. The designs of the clothes have been adapted to the local hot weather and the religious beliefs of the region. Following is a list of the traditional clothing worn by men and women in the UAE:

Abaya: The Abaya is a long elegant cloak worn by women in the UAE, where it is their national dress. Traditionally black in colour, it covers the whole body except the face, feet and hands and therefore some women prefer to team it up with the niqāb and Gafaaz to cover up the face and hands as well.


Agal: An Agal, also called as iqal, egal or igal is a black band secured tightly around the ghutrah to keep it in place. Usually in black in colour, the Agal is losing its prominence these days with  young men draping the guthra in different ways.

Burqa: The Burqa or burkha, burka, burqua is an outer piece of clothing used to cover a woman’s body to prevent exposure of skin in public. The Burqa is removed when the women returns to her house in the company of her family members. It is worn over daily attire and is more common among the older generation.

Kandura: Also known as thawb, thobe, or dishdasha, the Kandura is an ankle length, loose-fitting robe for men, usually white in colour. In winter, the Kandura is available in a splash of colours mostly in darker shades. The length of the robe represents the status of the person with the wealthy and royal seen in longer robes. Shorter length symbolizes modesty and is worn by the remaining Arabs.

Gishwa: UAE women dress traditionally in a Gishwa, which is a thin veil covering the face whereby it is unrecognizable. However, it is fine enough for the wearer to see through.

Ghutrah: A typical headscarf worn by men, the ghutrah is also known by the name of keffiyeh/kufiya, or shemagh in other Arabic countries. Made from square cloth of cotton in chequered patterns, it is draped over the head in various styles. In dry climates, these scarves provide protection from blowing dust and harsh rays of the sun.

Ghafiyah: The ghafiyah is a look-alike of a Muslim prayer hat worn below the ghutrah headscarf by Arabic men. They are intricately embroidered and not visible to the naked eye as it is covered by the ghutrah.

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