This combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah) is part of a three-piece ensemble, with two matching veils (shaylah tur) (ZI2021.500790a UAE) and (shaylah safwah) (ZI2021.500790b UAE) worn by Sheikhah Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan when posing for a portrait for Draped in Heritage exhibition curated by The Zay Initiative in 2020.
The ensemble was donated by Sheikhah Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, great-granddaughter of UAE founding father the late Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan AL Nahyan.
Sheikha Shamma is a great supporter of The Zay Initiative’s efforts to preserve and document aspects of UAE heritage and history.
She holds a Master’s degree in Sustainability Leadership from Cambridge University. As the CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability, Co-Founder of Aurora50 and Honorary President of the Emirates Green Business Council, Sheikha Shamma is a highly regarded business leader and expert in the field of sustainability. In addition, she serves as a member of the UAE’s Circular Economy Council, the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy Advisory Board, and the Industry and Academic Advisory Board for the Academy of International Business MENA.
Sheikha Shamma also established the Circle of Hope foundation, resulting in the successful launch and operation of non-profit environmental initiatives, such as Mangroves 4 Mankind and Beacon of Hope.
The ensemble was designed by her mother Shaikhah Shaikha bint Saif Al Nahyan, in the traditional (ryasi) style, albeit with a more contemporary form of gold adornment.
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 example is exceptional for it is embellished in pure gold, thus known as thawb_kandurah_ryasi; the word ryasi denotes high status, which is reflected in the value of the ornamentation. The garment is reserved for special occasions and, as its name suggests, is worn by the elite or privileged brides.
The overgarment (thawb) fabric is a very light and delicate French silk tulle (tur) with a floral motif in decorative lace (dantail), accentuated by shiny, rainbow coloured, Swarovski iron-on crystals (fsus), reminiscent of the more traditional thawb (mnaghad) style.
The neckline, central axis (bidhah) and all vertical hemlines are hand embroidered in metallic silver and gold thread (zari), in a random arabesque design. The same is applied to the sleeve cuffs (swarah) or (hyul) of the inner, plain cream silk satin, tunic (kandurah).
The embroidered areas are then embellished with an array of hand stitched 18 carat gold platelets, reminiscent of the traditional embossed coins like nijum, huruf or mshakhis of earlier times.
More q7 carat gold adornments in form of randomly placed small cylindrical shaped gold bars are applied horizontally by hand. Each bar holds between two and four gold ornaments hanging vertically to form dangling chains that jingle in motion.