A stitch in time

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With Eid Al Fitr drawing near marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, many men’s tailoring shops in the country have stopped taking orders for new kandooras — the loose-fitting national dress of Emirati men.


Mustafa Al Zarooni

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Published: Wed 13 Oct 2021, 11:30 AM

Muslims purchase cloth materials to get new kandooras stitched to wear on the auspicious occasion of Eid Al Fitr, as the Islam calls on the faithful to put perfume and wear new clothes if possible.

Tailoring shops have seen big rush of both Emirati and expatriate customers, who wear Emirati or GCC clothes of their designs.

The local dress of men in the Arabian Gulf has different names depending on the country. In the UAE and Oman, it is called kandoora, while in most parts of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, it is named Al Thob.

The dress differs from country to country. It is almost similar in the UAE and Oman, but the difference is in the tassel, known in the UAE as Tarbosha, which is sewn in the neckline like a necktie.

The tassel (Tarbosha) of the Emirati kandoora is long and straight, dangling till the abdomen, but the Omani one is short and slanting.

In the UAE, the kandoora is sewn in different designs like the Kuwaiti Thob, which is popular and favoured among the Emiratis, as the old Emiratis have been influenced by it since they studied in Kuwait and because it has a pocket on the front in which papers and pens can be kept.

The designer Qatari and Bahraini dresses for men are also available in UAE markets.

The kandoora designs have taken new shapes and followed new trends evolved with the passage of time such as Al Abadi — a combination of two designs.

“The demand for kandoora is different in winter and summer,” said Abdul Razek Taj, master cutter and chief tailor of Jabal Arafat Tailor in Dubai.

Elaborating, he said the woollen, coloured kandooras were only in demand in winter, and the Arabian kandooras gained the lion’s share in terms of demand, followed by the Kuwaiti, Abadi and Qatari ones.

Taking orders stopped nearly three weeks before the advent of Eid Al Fitr due to the big rush of customers at the tailoring shops, Razek Taj added.

On the number of kandooras which are cut and stitched to each and every customer’s need and their prices, Taj said, “The numbers differ — may be between three and 20.”

The prices depended on the fabric. The price of a Kuwaiti kandoora was Dh20 less than the Arabian one which was festooned with embroideries. The price of an Arabian kandoora, depending on the fabric, ranged from Dh180 to Dh280, while a Kuwaiti kandoora would cost Dh160 to Dh260, he noted.

Rashid Al Marzooki, Emirati resident, said he got six kandooras stitched for this Eid Al Fitr, and would wear them on the three Eid days. He said he had also bought a new qotra (Arab headdress) and new plain clothes as loinclothes, which are commonly known as Wizar or Eizar. Al Marzooki said he had always been stitching Arabian kandooras because they reflected the UAE identity. He also considered it to be the most beautiful and comfortable dress to put on.

“UAE citizens are the majority in the GCC who stitch kandooras of different designs,” he said, noting that some liked to wear the Kuwaiti kandoora and some others the Qatari Abadi.

“Tailoring shops for men have started spreading of late and they provide many services these days. For instance, the representative of a shop would now visit a Majlis or a house offering tailoring and other services like receiving orders and home delivery,” said Mohammed Al Shaibani, UAE citizen.

These new services had created some sort of a competition among the tailoring shops in terms of the quality of the material and accuracy in stitching, Al Shaibani said, adding that prices differed from tailor to tailor.

On the design he prefers, Al Shaibani said he always stitched Arabian kandoora since it portrayed the Emirati identity and he had used to wearing them since he was a child.

“The Emirati and Omani men’s national dresses are similar in terms of exterior appearance — even in the turban and the Wizar which is wrapped around the waist and serves as an underwear — while men in the rest of the GCC countries wear long white pants as the undergarment,” he noted.

GCC citizens recognised each other from their accent and dress, though most of the people from outside the region could not make out, even those who had been living in the GCC countries for a long time.

It was also possible to identify the nationality of a GCC citizen by the design of his dress and the kind of beard he sported, he added.


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