Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, The Zay Initiative founder was initially contacted on Instagram by Mariam Khalfan Mohammed Khalifah al Maydi al Badwawi, who offered to volunteer and help source old artifacts from the northern Emirates for the Zay Collection. Mariam has been an invaluable addition to our team, as she connects easily with people and patiently explains our role, convincing others to help the cause. This (kandurah_arabiyah khwar_zari) is one of her finds.
Mariam came across this article together with a few more from an elderly person by the name of Yousif Juma’ Saeed al Ka’bi, who is in his late seventies and lives in a remote area in the valley of al Qor in Ras al Khaimah. He had forgotten them saved in an old trunk dating back to the time of his marriage in 1979 and The Zay Initiative was lucky to acquire the whole lot.
The cut and style of the UAE men’s tunic (kandurah) is generally identical to the Omani (dishdashah), and the garment differs significantly at the neckline from those worn in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, where it is known as a (thawb) or (tobe).
Both the southeast Arabian (dishdashah/kandurah) and the north Arabian (thawb) are long-sleeved garments that fall straight down the body to the ankles and are typically in white cotton for the summer, as with this example. Occasionally beige or other earth colours in light weight wool, often imported from Kashmir, are used especially during winter. More recently, inexpensive polyester versions became popular.
The (thawb) as it is called in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen resembles an elongated Western men’s dress shirt, with a stiff collar; at times western shirt collars also occur; it is fitted at the torso; with gussets (bat) to connect the torso and the sleeve, and continues straight to the ankle. It may feature a chest pocket, two deep pockets on the left and right sides, buttons or holes for cufflinks on the wrists, a line of buttons in front, and is worn with white underpants (sirwal) underneath.
By contrast, as it is the case in this example, the UAE (kandurah) or Omani (dishdashah) is collarless and has a wider and looser fit around the torso, with the remainder of the garment falling in an A-line cut to the ankles. The sleeves are the same width from shoulder to wrist, they do not sport any cuffs or buttons and often triangular gussets (bat) connect the torso and the sleeve, giving the garment an effect that resembles the curve of a tailored garment. Air drawn in by the chimney effect circulates keeping the wearer cool during the hot season.
Characteristically, a triangular-shaped yoke defined by subtle decorative embroidery stitching, in satin or cotton threads, is found around the neck (muhar) and the front opening (shaj), with or without a row of small cotton ball buttons (’igam) and hanging from the neck is a detachable plaited tassel, called a (farkhah) or (farukhah), often scented with traditional perfume. Although this feature appears on both Emirati and Omani national dress, in Oman the (farukhah) is worn much shorter. Post-millennium, this simple tassel evolved acquiring more elaborately braided versions as part of a focused attempt at sustaining traditional crafts.
Underneath the (kandurah), men wear a white undershirt and a loincloth (wizar), wrapped around the waist, with a hemline shorter than the (kandurah). The (wizar) can be worn on its own, especially in informal settings and around the home or when engaged in laborious tasks. Imported from India and traditionally woven on a pit loom, and usually come in white, cream, or checkered colours with a decorative border hemline, usually in colourful striped patterns.