02 July, 2006


It is a color ubiquitous in the dress of local men. They wear a full-body gown, dishdasha, and head-piece, guthura. Why does it have to be white? There's nothing wrong with the color itself, but imagine this: There are in the country, say a population of 250,000 local adult and young-adult men. They each have 10 identical outfits, all the same cut and same design of full-body white gown and matching white head-piece. They wear one of these each day to school, to work, to weddings, to funerals, to parties, to view a soccer match, to go for a drive, to shop in a mall, to pray in a mosque... you get the picture. The same gown, the same color, on 250,000 men, for any occasion, at any time, every single day of every year. White!


pEtals said...

Well I hope we stick to this and dont lose this IDENTITY too... :-(

secretdubai said...

Because white is the best colour in the sun, by a mile. I've never liked white clothes much (too hard to keep clean!) but I gave in last year and the difference is incredible. Particularly white cotton - it's like armour against the sun and heat.

That said there are quite a few different colours for dishdashes, particularly in winter. Browns, greys, blacks, even plum colours and blues. And in summer I've seen a very cool, pale lavender used.

By contrast abayas hardly every vary in colour, although they are decorated in wildly different ways, they are still pretty much always black, summer and winter. While it looks elegant, wearing a dark hijab must be nightmarish in the heat - I always think the Levantine women in white and pastel scarves look so much cooler and more comfortable.

(Oh yeah and I've heard the lie about "black/dark colours being great in the heat because they absorbs heat away from the skin" and abayas are cooler than dishdashes. It's absolute bullshit. I've even done a few experiments to try it. Wearing dark colours is a living hell compared to light colours: it's basic physics. Try it).

trailingspouse said...

It certainly must make getting dressed in the morning a lot simpler!

Reminds me of an old McDonalds ad . . . Ronald McDonald stood in front of his closet in a nightgown, looking at 7 identical Ronald McDonald suits, and muttering "What to wear? What to wear?"

HEARTYY said...

Well, there is something fascinating over this. All of these men are using the same attire, no matter their status in the society. Even the Shaiks are using the same outfit underneath their cloak. So, rich or poor, Shaikh or common man, old or young, they look all the same!

Harsha said...

err yeaaa..I kinda learnt that stuff in school SD, dint you guys? :P

Well, I've always thought of Dubai to be pretty black and white.. all the men in white and the women in black.

I personally think the grey dishdashes look nice. :o)

ahmed said...

Well, there is something fascinating over this. All of these men are using the same attire, no matter their status in the society.

You really have no idea about the differences.

Tainted Female said...

I suppose the emphasis on the black for women and the white for men is meant to implicate just one more way Arabs abuse their women, coming from a modern British feminist, huh?

I wear Abaya. I don’t give a shit what you think your experiments have shown you, or what you we all learned in school. I also spent a great deal of my life here without it. And the truth is, the Abaya helps keep the damn humidity (which is more of a problem than the actual heat) away from our inner clothing and skin. It’s often made of silk, and is far more comfortable than just about anything else.

And as Ahmed said, just because you can’t see the details, dishdashes vary extravagantly in color (beiges, off-white, etc), material, and cut, as well as with the tarboosh (that long string like thing that ‘replaces’ the western tie), not to mention the headdress. There is a fashion to it all, and styles that come in and go out just as western fads do.

And I too hope the nationals don’t lose this part of their identity.

Harsha said...

Cooooooooooooooooool down tainted. cool it.

I hope everyone got the 'learnt in school' comment, unlike you.

learnt in school - light colors for summer, dark colors for winter. darker colors absorb more heat. Also another reason ppl tend to chose a white color car in Dubai. Look around, so many white cars.

As far as the abaya's are concerned, this is what I know , dont ask me how, but as far as I know - the color of the abaya is genrally black because black tends to camouflage the shape of the body to an extent. Thats what the Abaya is supposed to do right, cover up. unless women wear super tight figure hugging ones, which they do.. in Dubai.

Use it as a tip : black makes fat ppl look slimmer. (dont expect wonders) but it does help a little.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot more to the dress of both national women and men than most people (expats) realize. There are shades of color, details, angles, etc, etc. I don't really get the point of this post. What's the issue with all of them wearing white? Sorry, I don't get the "picture"...

BuJ said...

hmm BD.. sorry to have to read this one-dimensional view..

the predominant colour is white, but other darker colours are worn during winter.. also the head-ress (ghutra) is rarely white.. sometimes colours are added to it..

plus not all dishashas are the same! goto any tailor and he will tell u.

i am happy to recommend a few if u live in dubai.

like SD said.. the main reason is heat.. but then.. poor women..

bandicoot said...

BD, perhaps not the best post; basically no comment, except perhaps complementing the view that there is a lot more to abayas, sheilas, kandoras and gotras than meets the eye, and I'm afraid, many expats tend to be rather simplistic and condescending in their views on things local. I personally was more interested in commenting on John Chelton's post on the debate regarding prophets and saints in the Anglican church when it suddenly disappeared into thin air! What happened?

BD said...

I confess some ignorance on my part as an expat. The point of the post is that, well, it really does just look like a sea of white to me sometimes. My sense was that this indicated a tendancy toward comformity rather than each person asserting some aspect of their unique identity. Again, I confess, I was not aware of the subtleties in color, cut, design, etc. From my adimittedly biased perspective it seemed just too symplistic for men to where what in my eyes seemed to be basically the same outfit for every occasion. I will try to notice the subtlties.

But then again, why do the differences have to be so subtle? Why not just wear a red, black, blue, yellow or whaterver color? Ok, I know it's a question of culture, but it does say something about the culture.

Seabee said...

BD, you haven't been looking. The differences are amazing - just go into one of the shops specialising in them and check it out. There's a huge difference in materials, cut, design, colours, details such as cuffs and collars - the same with ghutras and ogals.

BD said...

My goodness! So it really looks like I'm out of the loop on this, and I've lived in this country for 6 years. But in my defence, I must say that on visits to Oman the first thing that strikes me is the apparent variety in the color and styles of the traditional dishdasha. I ask that the locals forgive some of us expats for our "blindness" on this point.

On bandicoot's observation, J.Chilton if you're around, can you tell us what happened to your post?

Fatima said...

here http://www.ausravings.blogspot.com/

this'll give you something to complain about...

arrrrrrgh!! it's so stupid!!

bandicoot said...

I agree with you BD that they do give the appearance of conformity and uniformity and, like other item of dress, food, etc, they say something about the culture. The question is what do they say? Let me just say that like interpreting a text or a symbol, one needs first to have a thorough knowledge of the appearance. But as we all know, it's tempting to follow a short cut to the interpretation without the benefit of knowledge; we’re all guilty of this, if not on this subject, then on other ones.

P.S. I of course meant John B. Chilton (and not Chelton) in my previous post; still wondering what happened to his post!

secretdubai said...

Quick plea to locals out there:

It would be really interesting if someone could blog - here or on their own blog - about the different styles of dishdash. Most of us are aware that the keffiyahs are worn differently, and the little tassels on the dishdash vary, but we have no clue what it means. If it's not Classified Emirati Information, it would be great to learn more.

blogrosh said...

I love the dishdashes, and whilst growing up, have seen men wear it all the time in the UAE. My dad's friends wore them, my dad has a few pairs, my friends wear them and I have a pair as well - it never goes outa style, yet it'a always in style : )

It's something I strongly identify with and I hope - inspite of all the amazing changes in the UAE - this aspect never changes, it sort of truly forms a strong identity of an Arab country like the UAE.

Like many have pointed out, there are sooooooooo many differences in the dishdashes, the cuts, the way they are worn, the material etc etc.

It's like suites for Arab Men - there is more to it than just saying these are "full-body gown, dishdasha, and head-piece, guthura" - hence all of 'em ain't the same.

It's like how most of my American friends think, that all Arab countries in the ME region is like Iraq - they think Iran is Arab too - plain ignorance eh.

Veiled Muslimah said...

Doesn't it also have to do with religion? [correct me if i'm wrong]

I.E- following the sunnah of the prophet S.A.W.S?

I know a couple of people who'r non arabs, in and out of middle eastern countries who wear it to represent Islam or their 'muslimness'. Especially in non-muslim countries.


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