This tunic dress (Kandurah) is part of an ensemble together with overgarment (Thawb) (ZI2021.500971.3a UAE), veil (Shaylah) (ZI2021.500971.3b UAE), and a group of imitation jewellery in traditional UAE style: necklace (Mriyah_um_shnaf) (ZI2021.500971.3c UAE), hair accessory (Hyar) (ZI2021.500971.3d UAE), & earrings (Kwashi) (ZI2021.500971.3e UAE).
This garment is part of a five-piece ensemble that was awarded first prize at the Zay Art of UAE Dress Design Competition held by The Zay Initiative in conjunction with Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown in 2021 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UAE.
The outfit titled Thawb Ftayim was donated by the designer Shaikha AL Gaithi to The Zay Initiative and will be included in the Fanan: The Art of Dress Exhibition, curated by The Zay Initiative at Zeman Awwal, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, from 28 January to 28 March 2022.
The exhibition will showcase the intersecting relationship between Art and Fashion while continuing to document the evolution of UAE traditional dress through the works of five UAE designers and five UAE artists. Together we will explore what fashion and heritage mean to contemporary Emirati women.
Shaikha AL Gaithi, a Sharjah-based, mother to two boys, holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic history and is a self-taught UAE designer. She established her workshop in 2008 and was awarded the prestigious role of designing the traditional outfits for the young hostesses during the opening ceremony at Dubai Expo 2020 in October 2021, where she created three particular styles. She donated an example of each style to The Zay Initiative’s collection.
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 coordinating 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, using the inner tunic as lining and creating a combination overgarment tunic (Thawb_kandurah).
This is an example of the Thawb_wa_kandurah ensemble, designed to represent the 50th UAE national day anniversary and the Expo 2020 dubai. It draws from the past, connecting the then and the now, linking the present to the future.
Pearl beads are used to reference the pearl trade associated with the area, while metallic gold and coloured cotton (Talli_Fatlah) sustain traditional craftwork. The costume gilded metal coins reference traditional gold coin embellishments (Hruf) or (Mshakhis).
The designer incorporated ribbed donut-shaped golden-coloured metal beads she found by chance while rummaging the marketplace in India a few years ago. They lend themselves perfectly to two important elements;
They resemble the logo of Expo 2020, that was inspired by a 4000-year-old gold ring, unearthed at the Saruq Al Hadid site in Al Marmoom back in 2002 when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai discovered the archaeological site while he was flying over the area and noticed the irregular ripples on the sand dunes. He unveiled this logo based on the ancient gold ring at a grand ceremony at the Armani Hotel, at Burj Khalifa in March 2016 and the actual ring is on display at the Saruq Al-Hadid Museum.
The round shape depicts the Indo-Arab number 5 character symbolising the 50th anniversary of the UAE celebrated in 2021.
The overall shape of this contemporary garment resembles the traditional dress known locally as (Gawan) or (Nafnuf) or (Biji / Bichi) rather than the traditional tunic (Kandurah), in that it is tapered around the waist to be body fitting while flaring out towards the bottom forming a wider, softly draped skirt. The hem is longer at the back than at the front forming a slight tail.
The neckline opening (Halj) and sleeve cuffs (Hyul) are adorned with the same type of metallic gold straw (Khus) intertwined with yellow or orange cotton in a basic chain motif known as (Talli_Fatlah) found on the accompanying thawb.
The round neckline (Halj) is simply embellished with six lines of Talli_Fatlah accentuated by two rows of ribbed donut-shaped golden-coloured metal beads. A square bib shaped Yoke line Is then delineated with one line of metallic gold and yellow cotton (Talli_Fatlah) and one line of donut-shaped beads.
The sleeve cuffs (Hyul) are more elaborately decorated with two bands embellishment, each consisting of two rows of (Talli_Fatlah) and one row of donut-shaped metal beads, repeated twice on each band. Between the two bands are a space of equal width decorated with single donut-shaped beads, pearls, and costume gilded metal coins. The cuff embellishments are completed with an arch-shaped collection of beaded circles using the same donut-shaped metal beads as elsewhere and representing the number 5 and circular branding of the Dubai Expo 2020.