This overgarment (thawb hashmi) is considered one of the most precious costumes in the Zay Initiative’s Collection, as it represents an important stage in the history of Iraq. It is owned by Dr. Amet Zahawi, aunt of Mr. Bashar Al-Qalamjy, husband of Dr. Reem Tariq El-Metwally.
Amet was born in 1920, and she was one of the first Iraqi girls to graduate from the Royal College of Medicine in Baghdad in 1943. After graduation, she enrolled in training at the Royal Teaching Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Baghdad. In 1947, Amet traveled to the United States of America to complete her graduate studies, and there she trained in pediatric hospitals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.
In 1950, Dr. Zahawi passed the California State Board test, becoming the first Iraqi woman to obtain a license to practice medicine in the state. She completed her studies and specialised in pediatric allergy, practicing her specialty at her clinic in Orange, California.
In the 1950s, Dr. Zahawi requested her family in Basra, Iraq, to send this thawb to her in America. Unfortunately, she did not have many opportunities to wear it. In the 1960s, international artist John Koch was able to chronicle Dr. Zahawi wearing the dress in New York City with a single photograph.
This overgarment represents the very best quality of (thawb hashmi), made of transparent black silk chiffon and stitched in a wide T-shape. The thawb is embroidered with pure silver threads (zari) in circular shapes stacked on top of each other and shiny gold metallic sequins. The circular neckline (halj) and the central axis (bidhah) are embroidered with the same shapes. The embroidery extends from the shoulders down to the bottom of the thawb from back to front, and the two triangular pieces under the very wide sleeves are also heavily embroidered. All the seams of the dress are covered with zigzag embroidery, and two zigzag lines extend from the back shoulders to the bottom.
Due to the age of the thawb, it is slightly damaged on the left side at the lower edge of the fabric.
The details of the thawb hashmi are similar to those of the (thawb najdi) and (thawb nashil). The origin of this particular style of overgarment goes back to the Sumerian civilization. Thawb hashimi is thought to get its name from the women of Bani Hashem, who are famous for wearing them. Traditionally they were most famously sewn in the Iraq regions of Najaf, Hilla, and Basra. In more recent times, these overgarments are sewn in the Gulf countries.
Wearing this type of thawb is associated with weddings, and until the 1960s, they were strongly present in Iraq as a luxurious traditional dress. To highlight the beauty of al-hashmi and its elegant embroidery, the woman wears a long dress in a contrasting colour under this distinguished overgarment.