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Traditional Emirati Clothing: 4 Insights on Roots, Customs, and Its Cultural Impact

In Emirati culture, traditional clothing embodies history and heritage, serving as a bridge between past and present. Despite the deep-rooted cultural heritage, Emiratis also adopt Western attire while retaining pride in their traditional customs.

Emirati women wear traditional dresses adorned with intricate embroidery and vibrant colors, symbolizing resilience and unity. Similarly, Emirati men proudly don their national dress as a symbol of honor and tradition.

The United Arab Emirates’s traditional dress combines tradition with modernity, reflecting Emirati identity. Tourists and expats enjoy Dubai’s cultural richness, including its traditional attire, embodying Emirati culture. As the UAE progresses, traditional clothing continues to preserve Emirati heritage.

1. Historical Root

Origin of Emirati Clothing Styles

Origins of Emirati Clothing Styles

Emirati clothing styles find their roots in a rich interweaving of cultural influences and historical narratives. Emerging from the arid landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula, traditional attire reflects a profound connection to the region’s nomadic heritage and Bedouin traditions, treasured by both Emirati women and men.

Throughout history, Emirati clothing has evolved, blending traditional elements with influences from neighboring cultures such as Persia, India, and Africa.

This amalgamation of styles has resulted in a distinctive and varied array of clothing, characterized by intricate embroidery, flowing fabrics, and vibrant colors, symbolizing the richness of Emirati culture and the essence of the United Arab Emirates’s traditional dress code.

2. Classic Emirati Style

Women’s Clothing

Traditional Dress for UAE Women

Traditional attire for Emirati women reflects the cultural heritage and Islamic values of the UAE. Known as the national dress, it includes key pieces like the abaya, a long black cloak worn over regular clothing, and the sheyla, a black headscarf covering the hair. Some women may also wear the ghutra and agal, typically worn by men, on special occasions.

The Jalabiya, a traditional long-sleeved dress, is also popular for events. Emirati women often accessorize with gold jewelry and traditional handbags and sandals. While rooted in tradition, many also incorporate modern Western clothes into their wardrobe.

Men’s Clothing

Traditional Dress for Men

Traditional clothing worn by men reflects the cultural heritage and values of the UAE. Often referred to as the national dress, it includes key elements such as the kandura, a long robe typically in white, symbolizing simplicity and elegance. Paired with the ghutra, a headscarf usually held in place with an agal, this ensemble embodies traditional Emirati style.

The Kandura provides practicality in the desert climate and signifies cultural identity and pride. Emirati men may also add sophistication to their attire with the Bisht, a ceremonial cloak reserved for special occasions.

3. Notable Vintage Outfits

The Kandura

Traditional Outfit – The Kandura

The Kandura stands as a cornerstone of traditional Emirati attire, embodying the essence of Emirati culture and heritage. This robe, often hailed as the national dress of the UAE, holds deep-rooted significance beyond its practicality in the desert climate.

Crafted from lightweight materials such as cotton or polyester, and typically adorned in white, the Kandura symbolizes simplicity, elegance, and cultural pride.

As an integral part of Emirati men’s wardrobe, the Kandura is complemented by accessories such as the ghutra and agal. It is worn proudly in both everyday life and on special occasions. From family gatherings to formal events, the Kandura remains a timeless symbol of Emirati heritage.

The Ghutra

The Ghutra

The ghutra holds a significant place in Emirati attire, symbolizing more than just a piece of fabric worn on the head. This iconic headdress is often referred to as part of the national dress of the UAE.

Crafted from lightweight materials such as linen, cotton, wool, silk, or satin, the ghutra is typically square and comes in various colors, with white and red being the most common. Paired with the agal, a black cord worn to secure it in place, the ghutra completes the traditional Emirati look.

Beyond its practical function of protecting from the harsh desert sun, the ghutra embodies values deeply ingrained in Emirati culture.

The Bisht

Bisht: Traditional Syrian Attire
Emirati – Bisht

The Bisht, a symbol of elegance in Emirati clothing, transcends mere fabric to represent prestige and honor. Often considered an essential component of the national dress of the UAE, this majestic cloak adds sophistication to traditional Emirati attire.

Crafted from luxurious materials such as wool, silk, or satin, the Bisht exudes opulence and refinement. Typically adorned in dark colors like black, brown, or navy blue, it features intricate embroidery and embellishments that vary in design and significance, reflecting the wearer’s status and occasion.

Worn over the Kandura, the traditional Emirati robe, the Bisht drapes gracefully, lending an air of regality and authority. Paired with accessories such as the ghutra and agal, it completes the traditional Emirati ensemble.

The Thobe

The Thobe

The thobe, a cornerstone of Emirati women’s clothing, embodies grace, modesty, and cultural heritage. It holds profound significance beyond its visual appeal.

Crafted from fine materials like cotton or linen, the thobe is tailored to offer comfort and elegance. Adorned in vibrant colors and intricate embroidery, its designs may vary by region and personal preference, but the essence of the thobe remains consistent in Emirati women’s wear.

Characterized by its loose-fitting silhouette, the thobe enables freedom of movement while respecting modesty standards set by the Emirati dress code.

The Shayla

The Shayla

The Shayla is an integral part of Emirati women’s traditional attire, playing a significant role in Emirati culture and identity.

Made with lightweight materials such as cotton or silk, the shayla is a rectangular piece of fabric elegantly draped over the head, covering the hair and sometimes part of the face.

The Shayla offers versatile styling options for arab women. It can be worn simply for daily use, offering sun protection and modesty. For formal occasions like weddings or religious ceremonies, it can be adorned with embroidery or accessories for added elegance.

The Sandal (Sandal Al-Na’al)

Traditional Footwear – Sandal Al-Na’al Photo by Handmade Footwear Factory

The sandal, known as “Sandal Al-Na’al,” holds a revered place in traditional Emirati attire, embodying heritage and cultural identity.

Crafted from natural materials such as leather or palm leaves, the sandal is designed for both functionality and comfort. Its simple yet sturdy construction allows for durability in the desert climate, while its open design provides ventilation in the hot weather.


Traditional Emirati Accessories

Emirati culture proudly showcases various traditional accessories, each with unique significance and heritage.

The khanjar, symbolizing honor and bravery, is a traditional dagger worn by Emirati men at ceremonial events. Jewelry symbolizes wealth, status, and beauty, often featuring precious stones and intricate metalwork.

Perfumes and incense enrich daily life and special occasions with luxurious scents. Belts and sashes, boasting vibrant colors and intricate designs, signify cultural pride.

4. Folk Costumes in Different Occasions


Traditional Emirati Clothes in Weddings

Weddings in Emirati culture are vibrant celebrations blending love with tradition, where attire plays a central role.

For Emirati women, the thobe al-arus, a symbol of purity and grace, is crafted from luxurious fabrics with intricate embroidery exuding elegance. Emirati men typically wear the Kandura, a flowing white robe representing simplicity and purity, completed with the ghutra headscarf and Egal accessory.

Weddings are a showcase of cultural heritage through traditional accessories, with arab women adorning themselves with exquisite jewelry and men accessorizing with the iconic khanjar.

National Day

UAE Traditional Dress on National Day

On National Day, Emiratis proudly don traditional attire, showcasing their patriotic spirit and cultural heritage.

For both men and women, the attire reflects the essence of Emirati identity and values. Men typically wear the Kandura, a symbol of simplicity and purity, often paired with the ghutra headscarf and Egal accessory. Women adorn themselves in elegant thobes, featuring intricate embroidery and embellishments, symbolizing grace and modesty.

Accessories play a significant role in enhancing traditional Emirati attire on National Day. Women may accessorize with elaborate jewelry, while men often display the iconic khanjar, representing honor and tradition.

See Also Traditional Tunisian Clothing

Family Gatherings

UAE Traditional Dress in Family Gatherings

During family gatherings, Emiratis often don traditional attire, paying homage to their heritage and reinforcing bonds of unity.

For both men and women, traditional Emirati clothing serves as a symbol of cultural pride and identity. Men typically wear the Kandura, a garment representing simplicity and purity, complemented by the ghutra headscarf and Egal accessory. Women opt for elegant thobes adorned with intricate embroidery, reflecting grace and modesty.

Accessories play a significant role in accentuating traditional Emirati attire during family gatherings. Women may embellish their outfits with exquisite jewelry, while men often showcase the iconic khanjar, symbolizing honor and tradition.

Traditional Emirati Clothing: A Recap

Traditional Emirati clothing epitomizes the rich cultural heritage and identity of the UAE, reflecting a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.

Influenced by a variety of cultural traditions, Emirati attire showcases the resilience and adaptability of its people, embodying a fusion of styles and designs. From the flowing Kandura to the elegant thobe, each garment exudes grace and significance, symbolizing the values and traditions cherished by Emiratis.

By preserving and celebrating these sartorial traditions, Emiratis ensure the continued legacy of their cultural heritage for generations to come.