An Instagram follower of Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, Mira Ahmed Hamdan, Um Sa’id, contacted her in 2018. Mira was a fan of the work carried out by The Zay Initiative and wished to donate a garment to the Collection.
Mira is a university graduate, married to her paternal cousin, and has 5 daughters and 3 sons. She works as an elementary teacher. She believes in instilling national pride in her students by sustaining traditional heritage.
This is an important example as it demonstrates the post-millennium evolution of this particular tunic dress (kandurah_arabiyah) specific to the UAE, and whose origin is believed to emanate from the Punjabi kurta. Its defining feature is the vertical slit (shaj) on the left side of the neckline (halj) that extends down the chest. That functioned as a means to enlarge the fitted neckline opening (halj) and allow the head to pass through, which is then closed and opened by means of cotton buttons (igmah) or snaps (siq_w_biq).
However, in this more contemporary example, we see the neckline has widened to complement western-style necklaces that soon became the norm rendering the traditional side slit obsolete. Yet the outline of this slit continues to exist through embroidery and other forms of adornment.
Interestingly, the fact that most tailors are non-native and lack the background knowledge of the area’s cultural heritage, leads to maintaining this feature by changing it to a mere delineated decorative motif embroidered in the shape of a left-side indentation on the garment.
Ignorantly they began to include an added zipper to the back of the garment to serve the exact function of the earlier 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 continue to wear the contemporary kandurah_arabiyah.
The garment is made from a striped satin silk fabric known locally as (bu_nsaiah). It is wider than average and as such does not require a gusset (bat). The sleeves are also relatively wide and are fastened at the wrists with metal snaps (siq_w_biq). The embroidery on both the neckline and sleeve cuffs (hyul) are in gold-coloured metallic thread (zari) with intricate floral and arabesque motifs, and iron-on crystals for an added bling.