National Dress

Emiratis generally wear traditional dress in public, although many will dress in more western clothes if travelling abroad. For men, traditional dress means a dishdasha or khandura; a white, full length shirt dress, which is worn with a white or red checked headdress, known as gutra or sifrah. This is secured with a black chord (agal). Sheikhs and important businessmen may also wear a thin black or brown robe (known as a bisht), over their dishdasha at important events, which is equivalent to a dinner jacket in western culture. In public, women wear the black abaya; a long, loose black robe that covers their normal clothes, plus a headscarf called a sheyla.

The abaya is often of sheer, flowing fabric and may be open at the front. Some women also wear a thin black veil hiding their face, and gloves. Older women sometimes still wear a leather mask, known as a burkha, which covers the nose, brow and cheekbones. Underneath, women traditionally wear a long tunic over loose, flowing trousers (sirwal), which are often heavily embroidered and fitted at wrists and ankles. However, these are used more by the older generation and modern women will often wear the latest fashions under their abayas. At the beach, it’s not unusual to see Muslim women in special bathing costumes that keep their legs, arms, bodies and heads covered, with only their faces, hands and feet on show.

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