The complete hinnah ceremony outfit was worn by Sheikhah Mariam bint Said bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi on her hinnah night (laylat_al_hinnah) before her marriage to Sheikh Marwan bin Rashid Al Mualla of Umm al Quwain in 2010. It has only been worn on this one occasion. The outfit was designed, commissioned, and presented to Sheikha Mariam by her aunt Sheikhah Moza bint Hamdan al Nahyan.
Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli has known Sheikhah Mariam from birth, as she is a childhood friend of her mother Sheikha Fakhira bint Mubarak al Nahyan. We are fortunate to have a few of the young Sheikha’s gowns from her youth in The Zay collection.
Before the advent of oil wealth in the Gulf region, an Emirati hinnah night called laylat_al_hinnah had traditionally been a modest affair, attended mainly by close friends and family. The increase in wealth and the subsequent rise in social competitiveness, along with the use of the colour green for hinnah ceremony clothes, appeared in the UAE from the 1980s imported from neighbouring countries. Not only did these new traditions lead to greater pageantry and displays of opulence, with music, food and singing, but the number of attendees increased to include at times hundreds of people, now including more distant relatives and a wider circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. The clothes that concealed the bride while sitting on a small raised stage, became the centrepiece of this desire to display as manifested in the pieces from this ensemble.
The entire hinnah night ensemble is a reflection of the amalgamation of old and new, local and imported customs. While honouring the tradition of hiding the bride, more elaborate approaches were devised to highlight her during the ceremony.
Before the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of the traditional dress. Women used to wear a thawb that contrasted with the tunic dress (kandurah). Soon this evolved into a matching set known as (thawb_wa_kandurah). By the 1990s, it developed further, as the two identical pieces were merged into one, attached at the neckline as they became a unified piece or combination overgarment tunic called thawb_kandurah reserved for social events.
This combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah) is made of French chiffon silk. This example has an added feature, the addition of a clouche train (thayil) at the rear. It also is heavily adorned with expensive Swarovski rainbow lustre iron-on crystals (kay), beads, and sequins. It evokes inspiration from historical overgarments, where similarly shaped silver specks (khus) covered the fabric in the thawb (mnaghad).
The floral motifs were hand-embroidered (shak), in gold and crystal multi-shaped glass beads and sequins, on to an emerald green mesh or tulle (tur) fabric. They were then applied to key sections of the garment; the neckline (halj), central axis (bidhah), the seam lines of the overgarment (thawb), and the sleeve cuffs (hyul) of the tunic kandurah. The garment is a testament to the increased craftsmanship of local Emirati tailoring, compared to items from the last century.
In these overgarment tunics, with time, as in this example, the cleavage opening widened to reveal more of the neckline and upper chest area, thus accentuating the look of the contemporary western style, jewel-encrusted necklaces that became more popular as the region’s wealth increased. This in turn pushed the decorative heavy embroidery work out until it spilled over the shoulders and flowed down the upper sleeves. The length and width of the embroidered central axis also became more exaggerated over time, in line with more elaborate embroidery work.