This tunic dress (kandurah_arabiyah mzarai, khwar zari) is part of an ensemble (thawb_wa_kandurah) and is worn with the matching overgarment (thawb bu_tilah mzarai, khwar zari) (ZI1980.50043 UAE).
This ensemble was commissioned by Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan from the late Fatima bint Saad, a renowned palace dressmaker. Sheikha Salama is the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. She is a childhood friend of Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli.
The dress was designed for the elite as occasional wear and Dr. Reem watched her friend wear it on many different social occasions before it was gifted to her. Dr. Reem, in turn, wore it through the 1990s before it became an early and core part of the Zay Collection.
Prior to the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of traditional dress. Women used to wear an overgarment (thawb) that contrasted with their tunic dress (kandurah). This later evolved into a matching set known as thawb_wa_kandurah as is the case in this example.
By the late 1990s, the thawb_wa_kandurah evolved further, as these two separate articles of dress were merged into one, becoming attached at the neckline, using the inner tunic as lining and creating a combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah).
The garment’s base fabric is grass green French silk, gold brocaded (mkhawas) or (mzarai), with 2 cm long, leaf motifs, scattered across in intersecting diagonal lines.
This type of tunic dress (kandurah_arabiyah) is specific to the UAE. It has a vertical slit (shaj) on the left side of the neckline (halj) that extends down to the chest area, and it is believed to originate from the Punjabi tunic (kurta). Although, the slit’s function was to allow the head to pass through, earlier fitted necklines, in later versions, the shaj has become purely decorative.
Similarly, metallic silver snaps (siq_w_biq) are used to fasten the neckline and sleeve cuffs. In time, metallic snaps were replaced with plastic, white in color, at first, and more recently, transparent.
The adornment on the neckline (halj) and sleeve cuffs (swarah) or (hyul), match that of the overgarment thawb (ZI1980.50043 UAE), part of the overall ensemble. It is densely machine embroidered in gilded metallic thread (zari). This is accentuated by a repetitive line of hand embroidered gold glass beads in large paisley (gazuwah) motifs. An emerald green, almond-shaped, glass crystal is fastened at the center of each paisley (gazuwah) motif.