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.
Measuring three meters wide, this large veil shaylah was designed to cover both the head and body. Traditionally, brides were not permitted to be seen for 40 days prior to their wedding, there for in keeping with tradition these larger veils were conceived in order to cover them in more recent elaborate hinnah nights. During such a ceremony, the bride generally sits with her arms open and legs stretched out in front of her. The center point of the veil is draped over her head so that her torso and legs are completely covered, leaving only the soles of her feet and the palms of her hands visible. This allows the intricate henna designs to be displayed and admired by attendees, as they circle around her or as she is paraded among them.
The delicate silk chiffon is supported with an emerald green tulle (tur) around the edges, hand embroidered (shak) with crystal beads and sequins, in floral and geometric motifs and festooned with iron-on Swarovski crystals of rainbow shimmer. The design reflects sun rays starting at the nape of the head spreading out in seven equally spaced lines reaching the edge to form one continuous embellished boarder along the hemline.
The garment is a testament to the sophisticated craftsmanship reached locally, when compared to work from the past century.