Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- United Arab Emirates and Bahrain
All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.
United Arab Emirates
Jillabeeya, Sirwal, Shalia and Burqua
Brides throughout the area now known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) traditionally wore silk or cotton outfits similar to this one. It consists of a floor-length dress (jillabeeya), trousers that are fitted at the ankles (sirwal), a headscarf (shalia) and a black mask that covers the eyebrows, nose and mouth (burqa). As was often the case in the Arab world, there was not 'wedding dress' as such; instead, a bride would wear the finest dress in the local style. What distinguished her were the henna designs on her hands and feet, her special makeup and hairstyle, and the considerable amount of gold jewelry she wore. Today's UAE brides wear Western-style white gowns, but henna rituals remain a popular custom.
Thoub al-Nashl and Darra'ah
Throughout the Arabian Peninsula, people have adopted loose, layered clothing as a means of conserving body moisture and protecting themselves from the sun. The thoub al-nashl, considered a staple of the Bahraini woman's wardrobe, is a semi-transparent overdress, made from fabrics such as chiffon or silk and lavishly decorated with gold or silver thread (reflecting an Indian influence), or silk embroidery and sequins. It is worn over the darra'ah. A distinctive feature is the huge sleeves, which can be draped over the head like a veil. Embroidery motifs are inspired by the Bahraini environment- desert, sun and palm trees.
Women have traditionally worn these costumes to celebrations such as weddings, Eid and birthday parties, and to festivities held when boats returned from a long pearl-diving expeditions. Brides also wear thoubs, choosing the highest quality silks and vivid colors such as red, green or violet, which beautifully complement the metallic threads. They are the most elaborately embroidered garments a woman will ever own, and many families today hang the bride's thoub al-nashl from the ceiling, where it can be admired by all and herald happiness and prosperity.
This emerald green wedding costume dates from 1982, but Bahrainis have worn a similar style for more than a century. It is made of Indian chiffon; the gold and silver embroidery represent the epitome of that craft.