This article is part of a whole outfit including a cloak (abayah) (ZI2021.500903a UAE), veil (shaylah) (ZI2021.500903b UAE), face mask (burgu) (ZI2021.500903c UAE), and underpants (sarwal) (ZI2021.500903d UAE).
On the 9th of February 2021, the day when the UAE mission to Mars was launched, Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli found an image on social media of a woman carrying a cardboard placard with a simple handwritten message that read “We reached Mars”. It captured her attention and she reached out to the account that posted the image.
It belonged to a young UAE photographer Alia Bent Sultan al Joker. She was visiting her best friend’s farm on this festive day when the whole country was glued to the media stations in excitement and anticipation. The whole nation was lighting up social media platforms, competing to post congratulatory posts. In this herd excitement, her friend’s mother, Khasibah Ali al Dhmani, agreed to pose for this photograph to echo her proud sentiments of the occasion. The image went viral and soon Khasibah became a public figure interviewed by the media, including Vogue Arabia, all wanting to photograph her to relive the moment.
Both ladies welcomed Dr Reem’s suggestion to donate the image as well as the whole outfit portrayed in the image to The Zay Collection in commemoration of this monumental date.
Alia Bint Sultan al Joker (@alia_bent_sultan) was born in Dubai and graduated with a BA in Integrated Communication and Marketing, from Zayed University, UAE (2003). She obtained her Masters in Quality Management from Wollongong University, UAE (2009), and currently holds the position of Director of Family Development at the Ministry of Community Development. Photography is her passion.
Khasibah Ali al Dhmani is registered to have been born on the 1st of July 1953. (Most birth dates occurring before the formation of the UAE in 1971, are surmised, as birth dates were not recorded. Hence everyone is generally listed as being born on the 1st of July, and the year it is calculated based on anecdotes of special events that corresponded to the year of birth, for example, the year when someone took power, or the year that faced an extreme heatwave, etc.)
She was married at the age of 14 and gave birth to 6 sons and 10 daughters. She never attended any formal schooling but managed to create a cottage industry making and selling traditional perfume and incense. She is very active and participates in different cultural weeks depicting local UAE heritage, and now has her own Instagram handle (@khaseibah_).
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 contrasted with 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 more recent example is composed of an emerald green gold metallic banarsi brocade (mzarai) upper layer or (thawb), lined by an inner plain emerald green satin tunic (kandurah).
The shared neckline and central axis (bidhah) continue the nineties trend of a larger open neckline that allowed for more cleavage, to accentuate western-style jewellery, while the central axis is broader and extends lower to crotch level.
Five large abstract leaf motifs, an added sign of modernity, are machine embroidered (mkhawar) within the central axis (bidhah), in metallic gold thread (zari) and sharply outlined in black silk thread (brisam). Each leaf is then saturated in citrine coloured iron-on Swarovski crystals allowing the motive to pop out even more. The remaining area within the traditional square neck outline and the central stem is filled with different size small medallions in green silk thread (brisam). Each medallion is outlined with a line of rainbow coloured iron-on Swarovski crystals with one extra crystal marking the central point. A thin metallic gold (zari) filigree line then fills in the areas between the medallions. Matching embroidery adorns the sleeve cuffs of the inner tunic kandurah.