This overgarment (thawb) was originally gifted along with a matching tunic dress (kandurah) to the late Inayah bint Salih al Muhairi, Um Hilal, by HH Sheikhah Fatima bint Mubarak al Kutbi, wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, mother to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan. The matching kandurah has since been lost, possibly given away.
Inayah 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 UAE founding father, 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 Fatimh al Hashmi. She donated the garment to the Zay Collection in memory of her maternal aunt Inayah.
Fatima al Hashmi (@liyaaly), 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.
Before the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of UAE traditional dress. Women used to wear an overgarment (thawb) that was distinct and in contrast to the tunic dress (kandurah) underneath. Soon this evolved into matching sets known as (thawb_wa_kandurah), where the two garments were made of the same or matching fabrics and colours. By the late 1990s, this evolved further, as the two separate articles were merged into one and became attached at the neckline, utilising the inner tunic as lining and creating a combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah).
This is an example as part of a thawb_wa_kandurah ensemble, for we know that it did have an accompanying tunic dress (kandurah). Made from sheer silk chiffon (thawb rafraf). The term rafraf is an Arabic onomatopoeia referring to the sound a flag makes when it flutters in the wind. As this fabric is so light, sheer, and silky it tends to drape and move in a similar way to a flag in the wind.
The silk chiffon is printed in abstract forms in a European or western style, instead of the eastern motifs that would normally be expected. This is a sign of changing trends during the early 1980s, as western fabrics were becoming more fashionable than their more traditional eastern counterparts.
The neckline (halj) and central axis (bidhah) are machine embroidered in gold metallic thread (khwar_zari). The stylised floral motifs are completed in green and red while the metallic gold embroidery is framed by two lines of metallic silver running the full length of the neckline and central axis past the naval.