This piece (thawb_al_sawn) is one part of a five-part ensemble including: undergarment (sirwal) (ZI2021.500946.1a KSA), headdress (quba’ah) (ZI2021.500946.1b KSA), headband (‘usabah) (ZI2021.500946.1c) KSA, and flask (ZI2021.500946.1d KSA). This outfit was purchased together with two other full outfits, Harb tribe thawb (ZI2021.500946.2 KSA) and Hijazi bridal thawb (ZI2021.500946.3 KSA).
Once our Digital Archive launched in 2019, people began to reach out to donate, sell, or point out interesting outfits and body adornments to The Zay team. When the webinar (Traditional Costumes and Heritage of Saudi Arabia) aired in July of 2021, Mr. Zakaria Ahmed, silver and antique dealer from Yemen and close supporter of The Zay Initiative’s work, managed to source three interesting and complete outfits through his personal connections throughout the region. Though not the highest of quality, Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli was very quick to acquire and add them to augment the Saudi section of The Zay Collection.
This waist-cinched dress (thawb_al_sawn) is a recent (post-2000) example of the traditional dress worn by the Bani Malik tribe, located east of Al Lith and south of Taif, Saudi Arabia.
Made of plain black cotton, it consists of a bodice (bdinah) with a round fitted neck opening (jayib), ankle-length skirt and fitted with a short zipper stitched to the back. The sleeves are mid-length probably to allow room for silver bracelets.
Traditionally, thawb_al_sawn was heavily embroidered with beads. However, in this example, a separate rectangular black cotton machine-embroidered fabric with red, green, and orange metallic thread in geometric motifs is appliqued to the yoke and covers the area between the shoulders and waistline. These motifs include medallions, small circles, triangles, and rectangular lines. This appliqued section is hemmed with ready-made golden trim with a central line of a repeated red chevron motif commonly known as (bu_nsaiah) in some Arab Gulf states such as the UAE. A multicoloured woven panel of horizontal stripes in varying widths of yellow, red, black, white, and green composes the skirt. This particular weave closely resembles the hand-woven loin cloth (wizrah) or (izar) that is very common in Southern Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The shoulders are decorated with a V shaped line of the same gold and red ready-made trim as the bodice (bdinah). The sleeve cuffs are finished with one line of the same trim followed by an additional 5 cm wide colourful woven and fringed trim of yellow, red, black, white, and green geometric patterns.