This owner of this overgarment (thawb) was the late Inayah bint Salih al Muhairi, Um Hilal, the wife of the late Al Said Abdullah al Hashmi, the Director of Private Affairs for the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.
The thawb was made for her by a renowned tailor in Dubai at that time called Khalifah, one of the first tailors to open shop in Dubai.
Inayah’s was known for reciting poetry orally but was also skilled in (talli) and (badlah) making. Growing up in the 1950s she became part of the entourage of the family of Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan al Nahyan’s daughter, Sheikhah Mozah. She then became a close confidant and part of the entourage of Sheikhah Fatimah bint Mubarak, wife of the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.
On Inayah’s death in 2013, the thawb was inherited by her niece and daughter-in-law, the Emirati poet Fatimah al Hashmi. She donated the garment to The Zay Collection in memory of her maternal aunt Inayah.
Fatima al Hashmi, is a close friend of Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli and an avid supporter of The Zay Initiative. Fatima attained a high school degree and is a wife to her maternal cousin, and mother to a son and daughter. She was one of the UAE female poets of the eighties, who began publishing her poems and literary writings under various pseudonyms, such as Abu Dhabi Nights, Um Khaled Nights, Wanat Alam or Layali. However, in her most recent four publications in 2019 and 2020, she opted to use her full name.
This overgarment (thawb) is made from pink Point d’Esprit tulle (tur), a woven dot motif, locally known as (bu_nafah) or (bu_nunah), where small nicks in the weave of the fabric result in raised and textured dots.
The silver embroidery (khwar_tulah) decorating the neckline and central axis (bidhah) is called (jal’) or (tarchibah), as it is often removed from old garments and reattached to new ones. The silver base is decorated in red silk (brisam) in a prominent cross motifs thus it is called (bu_slib), a style popular in the Emirates from the 1950s to the 1970s.
This garment is similar in design to one that features in a photo by the Magnum photographer Eve Arnold, taken at a wedding celebration for Al Maktoum ruling family in 1972. The similarities attest to the popularity of the style and its usage among the elite of the tribe at that period.
The garment was never used and was stored exceptionally well. It is customary for women to order a number of the same fabric or outfit at one go for safe keeping to gift or use when needed. studying the overall shape confirms its old age for the tailoring is very naïve. The fabric is simply folded to create the square shape inclusive of the right sleeve, while the left sleeve is added by attaching a panel composed of a number of smaller panels from the surplus of the same fabric. Resulting in unbalanced crude stitching lines on one side of the garment and not the other. The fabric also appears to have dark and lighter horizontal lines where the colour appears to have faded where the fabric was folded.
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.