Is the Abaya Cultural Or Religious?
Updated on 03 October 2019

By Salamah Ghudayer - SMCCU

It can be both, so the answer is about intention. Firstly, lets define what you are seeing. The Abaya is the long cloak for ladies, commonly black and seen nationwide. It is worn when outside of our home to comfortably adhere to religious guidelines about covering the woman’s curves. Made from a thin and flowing fabric under the heat of our environment it became iconic to this regions culture. Though it can be of any color, black is the most popular. Underneath western clothes are worn or a colorful kandoora, so the abaya is our outer garment. On our head, is a sheila. This is a long rectangular scarf wrapped once or twice around the head and neck, as per each woman’s habit or preferred style. Some ladies add a full-face veil by adding an extra square of fabric, or by using the end of her sheila – this face covering is called gushwa and is the traditional full-face veil for UAE. The niqab, is an import – the veil which is tied around the head and part lifts up to an open eye area. Ladies who wish to cover their face, but drive or have a clearer view will sometimes prefer this piece of clothing. The mask made from gold colored fabric is purely cultural and is called a Burqa.

Hijab is the covering of the hair and curves of the body down to the wrists and feet of a Muslim lady, as well as maintaining a mannerism of dignity and decorum. Some believe the face is included and others do not. The black colored abaya and sheila is the local method of hijab, differing from Muslim women of Morocco, Indonesia, Ethiopia; etc. Muslim women wear traditional styles based on climate, availability of cloth or clothes, and to be logical as they have things to get done within their environment, while maintaining Hijab. If in a very mountainous region, she would be wasting one hand to hold her abaya up to not trip as she maneuvers through her day, so her dress would be different than an abaya. Temperature, weather, activities; all play a major role in a cultures clothing. The thin, black fabric works perfectly in the Emirates. It is loose and flows for the heat and humidity. The black ensures no transparency; which is one clear request of our clothing in the Quran – our holy book. If a lady wore white or light pink in the bright sun of UAE, it would need to be very thick or of warmer unnatural fabric; making it quite hot in the heat here. So, the thin, non-transparent black actually makes life cooler for this environment. It has become synonymous with the Emirates and other communities that are near the gulf water; while inland especially towards our west was more colorful.

The abaya is a cultural article of clothing which makes the wearing of Islamic hijab comfortable in the Emirates. For some ladies, they use the black abaya as a statement on national identity only and is why they wear it. For many women it holds both; religious and national recognition. Various shops have different cuts, styles, decorations and even colors catering to her individual needs and tastes. In society its fashion has changed and will continue to change, but it’s utility and meaning will remain as a mark of identity for the Muslim Emirati women.

Share this page!
MORE ON general info

Celebrating the women in the UAE

Stations are located in Oud Metha and Al Satwa

A glimpse into the sustainability pavilion

A new location for your dogs every need

On World Wildlife Day, the initiative was reaffirmed

Innovations were showcased at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park

Over 1,000 10 year visas are being given out

Cancellation to protect the public from the pandemic

14 scamming cases have taken place during the pandemic

First Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  ... Next Last 
A 'must do' when in Dubai.
The Dubai Fountain was designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, and is 275 metres long with five circles and two central arcs. Over
Unveiled in February 2010, the Burj Khalifa stands 828 metres high - 320 metres taller than Taipei 101 which held the record since 2004. The Burj Khalifa currently holds seven records, including the highest occupied
Since its opening in December 1999, the Burj Al Arab has been one of the most photographed structures in the world. Sometimes referred to as "the world's most luxurious hotel
The UAE is surrounded by two bodies of water, both offering different diving experiences. Dubai is good for shipwrecks, which are home to Barracuda, Snappers and Jacks, with common
Take a magic carpet ride across rolling red sand dunes, with an amazing bird's eye view of the untouched desert below.
Another week, some more activities
Fun things to do this weekend.
The first week of February fun!
Fun things to do this week.
Comedian to make his Dubai debut in March.
The Noise Next Door comedy troupe is coming to Dubai on the 28 and 29 January.
Here are some fun things you can do with your family.
Fun events for the weekend!
The Laughter Factory is back for more laughs!
No plans? We've got you covered!
Things you can do for New Year's Eve.
Here are some things you can do this weekend!
Now that Iris Dubai will be moving back to its Meydan location tonight, 5 October, we can tell you for sure that you wouldn’t be running out of things to do anytime soon.
Dubai’s longest-running comedy night has announced a new lineup for October with three international acts taking the stage at different venues across the city. 
The award-winning actor and comedian will be performing at Dubai Opera on Saturday, 7 November from 8pm onwards, and early bird tickets are available until Monday, 12 October.
As we observe the International Day of Sign Languages today, we’ve rounded up a few places in the UAE that teach sign language, so you can learn a new skill while opening yourself up to a whole new world.
Cricket fans in Dubai have a lot to look forward to now that the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has kicked off in the UAE. So, if you were still wondering where to catch the big matches in Dubai, we’ve found you just the right spots
Are you missing travelling and exploring new places? Even with us being confined to our homes, you can still keep discovering new places through complimentary virtual tours arranged by digital platform Google Arts and Culture.
If you are expecting a quiet month with not much else to do other than some me-time, then think again. The calendar this month is packed full of things for everyone to do. There are things for everyone from music lovers, fitness fans, foodies, art.
Do you love food and more food? Then this is for you. Etisalat Beach Canteen, part of Dubai Food Festival, is back for daily from 8pm onwards until 14 March. The food carnival is on Jumeriah Beach
Top things to do in Dubailand, Motor City, Sport City and Green Community
Top things to do in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), Emirates Living, Jebel Ali, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Top things to do in Al Barsha, Barsha Heights and Al Quoz
Top things to do in Downtown Dubai, DIFC, Business Bay, Al Meydan and Dubai Design District
Top things to do in Jumeirah 1,2,3, Beach Road, Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim, Al Sufouh, Palm Jumeirah
Top things to do in Sheikh Zayed Road, 2nd of December Street and Al Satwa
Top things to do in Bur Dubai, Karama, Al Mankhool, Al Jaddaf and Oud Metha
Top things to do in Deira, Garhoud and Al Muteena.
Dubai stands in line with cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York, so you can never be bored of this city. There are a million of things to see, try, and taste!
And you won't be disappointed.
Your little ones will thank you.
Discover Dubai
Stay Connected - Drop us your email.