This light weight cotton undergarment (Sarwal) was gifted to Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli on one of her field visits in Dubai in UAE compiling data for her Ph.D. research on the topic from the 1980s onwards. She met with Mariam Sa’id, 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 Mariam Sa’id gifted this undergarment to Dr. Reem. In due course, it was added to The Zay Collection.
Mariam Sa’id was a delightful woman in her early thirties, finishing her high school degree through the adult education program. She was married at the young age of 15 and gave birth to 6 daughters and 4 sons.
Due to the prevailing notions of modesty in Arab cultures, such an article of clothing is among the rarest to come by because of its age, and because it embodies a private and personal attire.
This style of underpants (Sarwal) with heavy, machine embroidered ankle-cuffs (Badlah) became popular in the 1980s and 1990s as it provided a cheaper alternative to the hand-applied pure silver or metallic Badlah.
Made of white calico cotton with the decorative work reserved for the 28 cm long cuff. The raised work of the circular medallions is hand stitched, created by applying silver and black cords. The lines of floral and leaf motifs were completed by machine embroidery in gold (Khwar Zari), silver and white metallic thread, and black silk thread (Brisam).
Opening and closing the garment is achieved with the aid of a zip. Earlier versions used traditional cotton thread ball buttons (igam) or more recent, but before zips, metal snaps (Siq_w_biq).
The garment features an elasticated white cord in place of the earlier cotton (Nsaiah) to fasten the underpants at the waist.