This overgarment (thawb) is part of a two-piece ensemble (thawb_wa_kandurah) worn together with a tunic dress (kandurah) (ZI2019.500722a UAE).
HUSA AHMED AL KHALDI, a childhood friend of Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli, sadly lost her battle to cancer in December 2019. The following year Dr. Reem began working on a photographic exhibition, Draped In Heritage, presently part of the Women’s Pavilion, Expo 2020.
The exhibition features portraits of twenty trailblazing UAE women in traditional dress. As an act of remembrance to the memory of her friend, Dr. Reem decided to ensure HUSA is included. Dr. Zaynab Salih Farah, a friend to both women, shares HUSA’s measurements and volunteered to model the outfit. The photograph was intentionally captured with the model looking into a mirror where HUSA’s face was photoshoped onto the portrait looking back in the reflection.
The provenance of the garment is unknown, but from her teenage years, HUSA worked very closely with Sheikhah Fatimah bint Mubarak al Kutbi, wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and mother of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. From the exquisite quality of the fabric and refined workmanship, we can surmise that this was possibly gifted to HUSA by her highness or one of the members of Al Nahyan family.
The first female civil engineer in the UAE, HUSA graduated from the United States of America in 1983 and contributed to the establishment of many institutions in the country, including the Abu Dhabi Business Women Council, and Khawla Bint Al-Azwar Military School. She was active at The General Women’s Union and The Emirates Red Crescent. She was the social activist Khalid Al-Khaldi’s sister. It was he who donated some of Hissah’s belongings to The Zay Collection, including this ensemble.
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 silk brocaded (mzarai) chiffon (bu_nafah) or (bu_nunah) overgarment thawb exemplifies 1990s trends, where the thawb was still separate from the kandurah and fastened underneath by the use of metal snaps (siq_w_biq) at the shoulder lines.
The paneling effect displays contemporary interpretation of the traditional (myaza’) by using delicate hand embroidered floral lines to create the paneling effect on a single piece of silk fabric, rather than using different panels, as was the case in earlier versions.
The delicate hand embroidery delineating the neckline and central axis (bidhah) run the full length of the thawb to the bottom hemline in an undulating line with floral (bu_wurud) motifs. The hemline and sleeves are similarities finished with a boarder of the same embroidered floral motifs. For added bling, the garment is accentuated with generous amounts of iron-on crystals (fsus).