In 2018, Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli went to Bahrain to visit the shops of Muhammad Saleh Ahmad Zari in the Manama old market but discovered that the stores had been moved to a new mall. She spent a whole day talking to the manager, PK, who had arrived from India to Bahrain as a teenager in the 1980s. He had joined Zari’s business working on the shop floor in the old market and worked his way up to become the manager of Zari’s new stores.
During their conversation, Dr. Reem told PK that the purpose of her visit was to acquire historical clothing made by the Zari family. PK told her that all he had were two discarded old boxes and he would be happy if she accepted some of them as a gift.
Dr. Reem found this overgarment (thawb nashil) in one of the boxes in addition to two other dresses. The second box contained an old mould for gold, coin-like garment decorations called (hruf), and a black and white photo of the deceased Muhammad Saleh Zari.
PK also presented Dr. Reem with paper rolls containing straws of pure silver (talli), still wrapped with strings and sealed with red wax, bearing the product details and the name of the manufacturer from the French city of Lyon. Originally the silver straw talli was weighed in (tulah) and imported from Gujarat India, in time, the French type became more favoured due to its higher quality.
Muhammad Saleh Ahmad Zari is considered one of the oldest and most famous thawb nashil makers in Bahrain. After sewing the dress and embroidering it with zari threads by hand, he knocked and burnished the embroidery until it became polished, smooth, and shining.
Ultimately, this particular overgarment (thawb nashil) was purchased and added to The Zay Collection.
This sheer, light weight, white, cotton overgarment (thawb nashil kurar) sewn in a traditional T-shape, with side gussets (bat), of the same fabric, separating the upper and lower sleeve panels, is machine embroidered in a simple chain stitch, mainly in pink silk thread (brisam). Accompanied by a light sky-blue silk thread (brisam) accentuating just the neckline opening.
The embroidery on the thawb is in simple naïve floral motifs, predominantly highlighting the neckline and extending down almost to the hemline at the front. This is seen to resemble a more affordable median between the traditional hand-applied kurar adornment and gilded nashil technique, hence, the name thawb nashil kurar.
The garment is further decorated with scattered leaf motifs across the overall front and back, followed by two: floral and undulating lines, marking the outer hemlines on the sleeves.
Such a garment is customarily worn over underpants (sirwal) and a tunic dress (dara’ah) and is reserved for everyday use at home.