This dress (Kurtah) also known as (fustan), was originally acquired by the late Sahirah Nuri El Mutwalli, Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli’s paternal aunt, while visiting Mecca, Saudi Arabia during pilgrimage (Al_Haj). It was gifted to the Zay Initiative in 2021 by her daughter, Basma al Chalabi, in memory of her late mother.
Sahirah Nuru El Mutwalli was born in the Al-Adhamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq in 1926, as the third daughter in a family of 6 children (3 girls and 3 boys). Her father, Nuri Abdul Aziz El Mutwalli, was the last appointed caretaker to the Sunni shrine of Imam Abu Hanifa in Iraq.
Sahirah graduated from the Faculty of Law at Baghdad University in 1952 and worked as an accountant in Al-Karkh secondary school for girls and then in Al-Hariri secondary school for girls. In 1957, she married her first cousin Mr. Abdul Karim Dawood Chalabi and had four children (2 girls and 2 boys). Sahirah passed away on December 13, 2017, in Baghdad.
This waist cinched dress (kurtah) of pink Indian silk is bocaded in silver and gold thread (zari) or (kantil) in an imposing central large medallion motif.
The kurtah is a transitional dress that became popular after King Abdelaziz Al-Saud established the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The shape is reflective of the phase where dresses started taking shape that contoured and hugged the body, and zippers were introduced. It sports a Mandarian collar and a ¾ length sleeves and a mid-calf length skirt.
The brocaded central medallion is composed of floral and leaf motifs in alternating lustrous silver and gold weave. The hemline is decorated in a running arabesque line, finished at the bottom with a stylised calligraphic Arabic verse that states “Royal Saudi Family Attire”.
The dress (kurtah) could be worn alone, with or without an overgarment (thawb). Some versions sport the two swords and palm motifs, embelems of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, commonly known by (Sufrat_S’ud).