In 2018, Sheikhah al Suwaidi contacted Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli through Instagram and was excited to gift the Zay Collection this garment in memory of her grandmother, the late Hamdah bint Matar al Muri, the wife of Ali Matar Obaid al Dhabah al Suwaidi.
She passed away in her eighties and was a close friend and companion to Oshah bint Hussain bin Nasser Lutah, mother to both Dr. Moza & Dr. Rafi’ah Ghubash.
The donation came with a novel stipulation, that the tunic dress (Kandurah) would be saved together with a remaining vial of her grandmother’s perfume so that the garment could retain her scent.
This rare tunic dress (Kandurah) features the distinctive vertical slit (Shaj) along the left side of the neckline that is characteristic of older versions of what later became known a (Kandurah_arabiyah), a style particular to the UAE.
The slit shaj enlarged the fitted neck opening to enable the head to pass through, in time this neckline widened allowing for more cleavage, to accentuate western-style jewellery, rendering the Shaj obsolete and purely decorative. This coupled with a lack of knowledge, by non-indigenous tailors and embroiders, of the local cultural heritage, resulted in designs and shapes perpetually copied without a clear understanding of their original function or cultural features. Ironically, it resulted in the tailors creating a back slit as a substitute for the original function of the now decorative Shaj silhouette.
The side slit Shaj was either fastened using cotton thread buttons (Igmah): or metal snap press snaps (Siq_w_biq); there is no evidence left to suggest which one.
The neckline and side slit Shaj are adorned in silver thread machine embroidered (Khwar_Tulah) in naïve, abstract floral motifs.
This tunic is typical of its time, in that it is short enough to allow the decorative ankle cuffs (Badlah) of what would have come in contrasting colour underpants (Sarwal) worn underneath to be visible.
This garment represents a physical example of the traditional Arabic saying (Zinah_wa_khazinah), meaning ‘beauty and wealth in one.’ The silver was employed to demonstrate style and reflect social status, but could also be melted down and sold in times of need.