Dubai: Abaya - the flowing black fabric that Emirati women dress in - has been used for more than a century and it's still a favourite among the young generation.

This is despite the all irresistible eye-catching fashionable outfits and brand labels that have been bombarding the UAE markets recently. Emirati women have managed to combine the latest fashion requirements with the abaya.

Gulf News spoke to some Emirati young girls and women, and they offered their views regarding the attire.

Aida Al Busaidy, 25, said: "Either wear it right or don't wear it at all. As a young girl, I never understood the concept of the abaya and why it was worn and what it meant for us. As a girl from the Gulf, I grew up looking at the abaya as a cultural outfit."

Aida, who is the Internal Communications Vice President with the Dubai Group added: "Nowadays, people have taken our designs and used them for culture, religion as well as for fashion. The designs and layout of the abaya has changed but the concept remains the same, which is modesty!"

"For me, the abaya represents a beautiful robe that helps us identify with our heritage and what we hold dear to our hearts. Wearing it makes me a proud Emirati, even though our style is different from Saudi and Qatari women but having it on is a sense of pride that I belong to a group of women who no matter how old they are, we all are the same, we all represent one country and unified in our values and morals which is what the abaya represents," she added.

Aida says the abaya is not something forced on women because of religion even though it fulfils the religious aspect of covering up decently. "I get a sense of joy when I see women wearing it, but if they wear it right. Some women wear mini skirts and use the abaya provocatively to attract the opposite sex which is not the purpose of wearing the abaya and that makes me mad. Either wear it right or don't wear it at all," she says.

Shaikha Rashid, 36, who is a housewife, agrees with Aida: "Abaya is worn to cover the body and reflect decency. Nowadays, unfortunately many women are compromising its design by over-accessorising it and not to mention the way they wear it. Some of them wear a short skirt or some leggings beneath it. I really wonder why."

She continues: "Abaya is our signature style. The UAE society is always known as conservative and strongly attached to its tradition and heritage. Therefore, we grew up having a precious link and loyalty to our religion, values and costume. To me, Abaya adds an extra decent value to a lady and differentiates her from the others. I'm so proud of our costume and I'll encourage my daughter to wear it as well," she says.

Said Loloua Yousuf, the corporate finance director at Dubai Internet City said: "I like to wear the abaya as it does say so much about my personality, culture, and background. My mother and my grand mother wear it; it's a precious costume inherited from one generation to another."

Emirati student Kholoud Abdulla, 14, who attends the Nouf Secondary School in Sharjah, said: "I've been wearing the abaya since I was 15 years old. To tell you the truth at first my family asked me to postpone it until after a few more years. However, perhaps due to the influence I got from fellow students, I felt I should also wear it. I didn't regret donning it at a very young age."

"The most expensive abaya I have was Dh5,000 and I wear it during special occasions only," Kholoud says.

Grandmother Gaiah Khalfan, 60, said: "It's our history and future, under no circumstances can we ditch it or replace it by other fashionable outfits."

Do you wear an abaya? Do you think abayas have become more of a fashion statement than a cultural requirement?

Your comments

I agree with all the other comments. The abhaya is a religious and a traditional dress for a Muslim women, which makes them unique in many different ways - provided she wears it decently.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 17:14

The abaya is a traditional dress for women and when they wear it, they look great and more beautiful.
Anwar Kamal
Posted: February 06, 2009, 16:20

I can always associate the abaya with our very own "bangala and malong" dress in Philippines. The malong is the counterpart of the bangala, which is very unique, fashionable and conservative!
Anwar Malon
Posted: February 06, 2009, 13:55

Many Muslim women in South Africa have and still wear the Abaya which they've purchased from Arab countries. To me the Abaya represents the dignity that Islam offers a Muslim woman, much to the ignorance of some cultures.
Sumaiya Essa
Posted: February 06, 2009, 13:34

I wear an abaya and I agree with all the other reader comments. Nowadays it looks like the abaya is more of a fashionable outfit than what it should be used for. We wear it to cover ourselves in a decent way. However, some women wear it for who knows what reason and this gives a chance to others to view a woman wearing an abaya in a negative way.
Rabia Akram
Posted: February 06, 2009, 13:31

I wish I could wear the abaya, since it looks so feminine.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 13:28

I've been to Dubai for a couple of months and I really appreciate the Emirati men and women wearing their traditional dress. For me it is not only showing their beliefs and culture to others but also preserving their culture for the future generations.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 12:43

In Rome you do what the Romans do. We Emirati women wear the abaya because it is our cultural dress and our culture is defined by our religion, Islam. That is why it is a beautiful, conservative and traditional way to be a good Muslim and an elegant woman. As the report has mentioned, the styles have changed, but are still conservative. For those who abuse it, as Aida Al Busaidy has mentioned, "wear it right or don't wear it at all."
Khowla Farah
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: February 06, 2009, 12:42

Abaya is meant to reflect simplicity.
Sadik Sayyed
Posted: February 06, 2009, 12:38

I'm actually doing a Phd research on the image of Emirati women. When I am in Gulf countries, I usally wear the abaya, too. In the black and nice abaya, I see myself as a woman that is more beautiful than the woman in the western dress, in France for example. The Emirati women are so lovely and their abaya make them so beautiful. It absolutely conforms with their black eyes and their make-up, too. I observe abbaya in the painting and photogaphie expressions too. Abaya is a "representation" of woman in the sociéty ,it is not her reality. Jila Schutz- France
Jila Schutz
Posted: February 06, 2009, 12:37

Abaya represents modesty. A Muslim woman is dressed only to attract her husband and avoid strangers. Therefore, an abaya not only protects strangers casting a wicked/evil eye, but also represents modesty and culture. Donning an abaya looks very graceful and decent when done properly.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 11:37

As an Indian Muslim, not many wear the abaya back home, but that is changing now. It has only been a year since I started wearing an abaya with the reason being that I became more regiliously inclined. Being a Muslim is one thing, but being a practicing one is far more important. Now, without it, I feel almost naked. It's very sad to see some girls here who wear it more as a fashion statement in a provocative manner, which could convey a sense of mystery to attract the opposite sex. The main purpose is to guard a woman's modesty, which is not being met.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 11:25

Arab Girls look beautiful wearing an abaya.
Kushbo Talwar
Posted: February 06, 2009, 10:40

The abaya is not a costume. It is a national dress and it can be beautiful no matter how old the wearer.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 10:30

I wore the abaya for years while living in UAE. When I came back to the UK, I really missed it. I always wore a traditional dress or something long underneath. I never saw the point of women wearing revealing clothes underneath the abaya. I do think that a lot of women use it as a fashion statement, especially when they wear it with their hair uncovered.
Lou Lou
Posted: February 06, 2009, 10:22

Is it an abaya, or a body-hugging black outift as designed by certain women, which is topping sales?
Posted: February 06, 2009, 10:00

I like to wear the abaya in Dubai or any other Gulf country only. It represents my culture. It is feminine and chic if worn in style. In the summer we wear chiffon fabric that is made specially for abayas to observe heat. In winter, the fabric is slightly warm. Unfortunatly, some wear it over accessories and some are longer in length than the woman's actual size. I do not prefer to wear it in parties, that is ladies parties or special occasions.
Posted: February 06, 2009, 09:27

Abaya is a very good dress for girls and women, since wearing an abaya makes the girls or women more beautiful.
Abdul Muthalib
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: February 06, 2009, 09:19