Without any prejudice and regardless of their conservative approach, the Saudi people are generally very hospitable and benevolent. They possess a very rich cultural heritage full of tremendous Bedouin traditions. Although the oil wealth has brought enormous and luxurious change in their lifestyles but even then, the Saudis have taken their symbolic values, customs and traditions with pride. The Saudis are so traditional. Apart from the western influence, you’ll generally find them wearing their classic and conventional costumes.
If we say that the traditional dress of Saudi Arabia truly reflects the Kingdom’s culture, it would not be wrong.
For the rest of the world, the traditional dress code of Saudi Arabia might be bourgeois and conservative but in fact it is fully conversant with the Kingdom’s harsh climate. The traditional dress for Saudi men consists of a usually white colored Thobe which is normally very well ironed. Thobe may also be spelled as Thawb and it is actually an ankle length garment usually with long sleeves in a tunic shape. During summer, white thobes are commonly seen and during winter, the Saudis prefer to wear wool thobes usually in bright colors.
Let’s not forget that the headdress is the significant part of the traditional Saudi attire for men. The Saudi men’s headdress consists of Tagia “a small white cap that keeps the gutra tight”, the Gutra which is a large square cloth made of cotton and traditionally it is worn a white or red one or in checked contrasts. Igal or Agal is the third part of the Saudi men’s headdress which is necessary to keep the whole thing in place. Igal may be black cord or worn doubled.
In the festive occasions and wedding ceremonies, the Saudi men for the matter of pride and prestige also wear Bisht and It is essentially a flowing outer cloak made of wool, worn over the Thobe. Sometimes Bisht is long white, brown or black cloaks trimmed in gold.
Saudi women are very fashionable but they don’t appear in public in showy and customary manner like women of the rest of the world. Their dress code like men is also governed by Sharia law and the traditional dress for Saudi women includes Abayah along with Scarf.
This dress code covers the entire body and the veil covers the head and hair but the face is normally open and visible. Abayah comes in different styles and adorned with embellished patterns these days. Abayah is usually a black and tunic cloak and beneath which, the Saudi women enjoy modern clothing and take great pride in their appearance. They enjoy bright colours and lavish material.
The scarves of the Saudi women are also worth seen. Some Saudi women wear scarves made of sheer material. It must be remembered that wearing veil is a thousands of years old traditions even before the advent of Islam in this region. This is also a natural way to protect the skin and eyes from the brutal sun and prevents the constant exposure to sun. After Islam, the scarf also became a symbol of decency and character for the women of Saudi Arabia.
The traditional jewelry for Saudi women is usually made of silver and gold. Saudi women are crazy for their personal decoration and wear the jewelry as a symbol of dignity and self-respect. For Bedouin women, their jewelry is not only of special importance but it is a matter of social and economic status. The modern Saudi women nowadays prefer gold over silver and lighter-weight pieces unlike their grandmothers who loved the large and heavy ones. Saudi Children also wear jewelry that contains silver bracelets or anklets, most often trimmed with tiny bells.
Things are rapidly changing with the passage of times. The Saudi youth are nowadays normally seen in modern costumes in their casual affairs. The typical traditional dress of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is gradually becoming a part of either official affairs or the segment of the formal folklore.
Now in the Saudi Folklore like folk dances, the performers wear the traditional dresses. “Al Ardah” is a type of folkloric dance in Saudi Arabia. Originally, the “al ardah” was performed only by the Shammar tribe of the central Nejd region before going to war, but nowadays it is done at celebrations or cultural events by all tribes.
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