This silk veil (shaylah safwah) is part of a three-piece ensemble, a combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah) (ZI2021.500790 UAE) and a second silk veil (shaylah tur) (ZI2021.500790a 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.
Sheikhah 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 veil is made of simple, yet high quality, French silk crepe (wigayah). Apart from a machine stitched hem, the only other feature is a monogram created in Swarovski crystals.
This head veil (shaylah) was used in conjunction with the second piece of the ensemble, the see-through silk tulle head veil (shaylah tur) and add more opaque, layer to cover properly in front of men, which is why it is referred to as wigayah.
Both veils were reserved for indoor use, in female company. The lighter silk tulle veil would have been worn on the head at all times. As the fabric is quite sheer, this third part of the ensemble, the heavier and less opaque Emirati silk crepe head veil is kept about the person, or nearby, in case it is required to be put on as the wearer moves between rooms, for added coverage.
In earlier days a cloak (abayah) would have been worn or a black head veil (shaylah) but since the start of the millennium there has been a move towards the use of contemporary coloured fabrics and a more stylistic look. However, the ensemble still serves the purpose of covering the woman in accordance to the religious guidelines and social customs of the region.
In public areas, outside of the house or palace, the wearer continues to use the abayah to cover up.