This tunic is accompanied by matching underpants (Sarwal Bu_ Nsaiah Badlah Talli) (ZI1998.50010a UAE).
Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli purchased this article of dress in 1998 from Bakhitah Al ‘Ali, Um Salih.
Bakhitah Al ‘Ali, was in her late fifties when the two ladies met. She never attended any formal schooling but studied under a religious tribal teacher “mtawa’ah” and like many of her peers could recite the holy Quran by heart. She married her maternal cousin at the age of 13 and bore 3 daughters and five sons. She was very talented in crafts and made the underpants cuffs (Badlah Talli) that accompanied the tunic (Kandurah).
This tunic (Kandurah) dress is made of a form of striped (Bu_glaym) Satin cotton fabric known locally as (Bu_Nsaiah). The fabric is a deep purple base colour, woven in repetitive white, vertical, 1 cm wide, chevron lines, sandwiched by 0.5 cm wide vertical dark green stripes and outlined in 0.25 cm gold colour stripes. The fabric is beginning to show its age, as many threads are tethered. This type of fabric is popular and commonly worn by Emirati women and young girls alike.
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).
It is an important example of attire as it demonstrates the onset of transformation of the vertical slit (Shaj), customarily found on the left side of the neckline (Halj) and extends down the chest area. The slit (Shaj) originally functioned as a means to enlarge the fitted neckline opening and allow the head to pass through, which was then closed and opened by cotton buttons (igam) or snaps (Siq_w_biq).
However, in this example, we see the neckline is widened to complement western-style necklaces. Though the outline of this side slit (Shaj) continues to be delineated through embroidery and other forms of adornment, the functional element of the side slit (Shaj) itself has become obsolete.
Interestingly, one of the key reasons the side slit (Shaj) has been maintained in a purely decorative form is due to most tailors being non-native and lacking the background knowledge of the UAE’s cultural heritage. Moreover, many tailors began to include a zipper to the back of the garment which served the exact function of the earlier frontal side slit (Shaj).
Sadly, this history of the evolution of the Shaj has been lost, not only to these tailors but also to the Emirati women who wear the contemporary versions of this Kandurah_arabiyah.
The sleeves are very wide as such they no longer require an underarm gusset (Bat), and are fastened at the wrists with metal snap press studs (Siq_w_biq). At the time this garment was made, these studs were seen as a sign of modernity, trendiness, and social stature. Earlier garments of this type used cotton thread buttons (igam).
In this example, the neckline (Halj) is outlined and accentuated with intricate floral arabesque motifs using silver thread machine embroidery (Khwar_Tulah). The same also delineates and decorates sleeve cuffs (Hyul).
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.