This cotton veil (Shaylah) was gifted to Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli on one of her field visits to the northern Emirate of Sharjah in UAE while compiling data for her Ph.D. research on this topic from the late 1980s onwards.
She met with Aliyah Khalfan, Um Abdullah, at a women’s gathering. She was very enthusiastic about the subject matter and shed light on many details on the topic.
The two women struck a chord and Aliyah gifted this veil to Dr. Reem. In due course it was added to The Zay Collection in memory of Aliyah who passed away at the age of 62, in early 2015, having lost her battle to cancer.
Aliyah was a lively woman who graduated high school. She was married at the age of 17 and gave birth to 3 daughters and 2 sons.
This denser weave, rectangular black cotton cut-fabric, sports a hardly visible yet uniform woven leaf motif. It was first introduced to the area as commerce evolved during the early eighties and is used in multiple forms of dress. Here it is used as a veil (Shaylah), as it is draped off the head to cover the hair, shoulders, and upper body. It is plain, unadorned, and just simply machine hemmed on the two outer cut edges.
Used mainly for daily wear at home or in public. 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 reversly 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) from the verb to conceal. Both actions are carried out by women very swiftly, elegantly, and somewhat sensuously when any non-relative male crosses paths unexpectedly.
Keywords: Nidwah, wasmah, wigayah