EVER wonder why Arab men wear white kanduras and Arab women wear black abayas? Well, I came across the answer while reading Abu Dhabi's The National newspaper this weekend...
Kanduras and abayas hail from the traditional dress Arabs have been wearing for centuries. The harsh desert climate meant people would choose lightweight materials to cover as much of the body as possible to protect it from the sun and sand. The loose fit gives it a modest shape and allows air to circulate. The light colour of the men's kandura came from the natural hue of cotton, although the bright white is more recent since the invention of bleach. Now other discreet colours are also worn occasionally to add a personal touch. Clothes were shaped by practicality and what resources were available. The kandura has been a wardrobe staple and there has been no practical reason to change it.
Women like to wear colourful dresses in light cotton or silk with trousers of the same material underneath. For modesty, they cover their outfits with a lightweight black abaya with a matching head scarf in public. Very thin, the black fabric still covers completely and filters UV rays from the intense sunlight. Historically, women wore black to distinguish themselves from the rest of the tribe when rival tribes would confront one another. Since women and children should not be harmed in an attack, they would gather together and it was easy to distinguish them from a distance. Nowadays many abayas are adorned with intricate embroidery and beading to personalize them.
I can see why the white works, but with temps here going as high as 120F (49C) in the summer (it's already 107F, 42C today), I can't imagine adding a black layer over my clothes no matter how thin the fabric. I don't do very well with heat. Thank goodness for air conditioning!
[sharjah news/abc news]