When Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli was studying for her Ph.D., she organised trips throughout the Emirates to meet different groups in order to collect data and samples. It was during one of these expeditions that she bought this head veil (shaylah) and a few other garments from a Dubai native, Khadijah Khalaf al Nasaj.
Khadijah, Um Khalifah, born in the early 1950s, never attended any formal schooling. She married her paternal cousin at the age of 14 and bore 5 daughters and 4 sons.
Basic synthetic veil shaylah is simply cut from a length of fabric measuring about four meters. The Point d’Esprit tulle (tur) is interspersed with seed-like dots that are created by small pin knots within the weave of the fabric, resulting in a polka dot effect. These small dotted motifs are called (bu_nafah) or (bu_nunah) in colloquial Arabic.
This fabric is generally draped off the head to cover most of the upper body portion. In earlier versions of these garments, the cut edge was often left to fray, but in later ones, as in this example, it is hemmed by hand with a basic running stitch.
A common public practice within the region is to pull down the top portion above the forehead concealing the whole face down to the chest line, or reversely hold one of the draped corners in both hands and flipping it up to cover the crown concealing the entire face, neck, and chest areas. This then renders the article a (ghishwah) form the verb to conceal. Both actions are carried out by women very swiftly, elegantly, and somewhat sensuously when any non-relative male crosses path unexpectedly.