12 May 2008

Mansoojat Foundation and all that is Tribal

Being from the sweet island of Bahrain I do feel I have a sense of responsibility to cover fashions from my home town or other neighboring home towns. I do end up digging around for coverage on Middle Eastern fashion as there is not much info about it in the web, which makes it all the more satisfying when you hot jackpot. So when I stumbled upon the Mansoojat Foundation, a UK registered charity founded by a group of Saudi women with a passionate interest in the traditional costume of Arabia, I was super proud of myself.

The main aim of the foundation is to raise public awareness for the costume of their heritage. Back in Bahrain you can find many ‘traditional’ Arabian costumes that are tacky or made out of cheapo material dotted around the old souks or in one of the million local shops that sell them. Bahraini women have been on an Abaya and Jalabeya shop opening craze.(To those who are unfamiliar to the Arabian heritage, an Abaya and Jalebya are names for traditional clothing, they are still popular today and sold everywhere in the Gulf countries)

But this website is far from those stuffy shops; on the contrary the website is clean and simple, with stimulating photos of the traditional costumes. Surfing around the site I was interested in knowing more about the different regions of Saudi Arabia and about the different tribes so I spent quite some time looking around at the garments.

Since the ‘tribal look’ is very in now (I can’t believe I just said in) its inspirational to look at real tribal into my outfits.

I wasn’t at all interested in history back in high school, so if you offer me a non-fashion related piece of history I’d pass it up, but this website makes learning about the different tribes fun because they relate each tribal dress to the geography, architecture and natural history of the area the tribe came from. Browsing around I found the Sulaym, Rashaidah, and Harb tribes more interesting due to the design of their dress as well as the fabric material used.

The website makes it easy to cruise from one tribe to another, with plenty of info on their location in Saudi Arabia, and what each area was known for. The costumes of the Rashaidah tribe really caught my eye. The Rashaidah tribes were based on the mountains of Jabal Shammar shield northern Najd from the sands of the Great Nafud desert. I have zero idea where it is but doesn’t it just sound magical??

I can also see myself dawned in the Sulaym tribe garments. The patchwork and quilting really appeals to my taste. The site also mentions this tribe does not favor blue fabric and I am very curious as to why.

Lawrence of Arabia fought in the Arab revolt in the Hijaz and his abaya is preserved at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Might be worth it to take a look when if you live around Oxford.

On a blue-irsh note the Harb tribe rivals the Sulaym tribe in terms of making blue work with extreme sophistication. Their dresses are decorated with buttons, embroidery, and heavy patchwork on the hem. The color blue was their trademark color and they often used coins as jewelry. Their Harbi dresses sound so exquisite I am tempted to start joining pennies together to adorn some sort of necklace.

The Harb tribes were based in al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, “The Illumincated City” which is the place the Prophet Muhammed took refuge on his flight from Makkah in AD 622, the date when the Muslim calendar begins. He established this area as the first Muslim community and succeeded in establishing the pilgrimage of Islam.

The Jahdaly Tribe also have some breathtaking clothing. Jahdaly women’s clothing is made of locally dyed red and brown imported muslin. The garments are decorated with metal beads and sewn in geometric patterns Jahdaly women seem to be the only tribal women to wear skirts and blouses. Their skirts are often lined with recycled flour sacks. Their headdresses are varied and are also decorated with metal beads.

The contrasts of color on the costumes work really well and the combination of beadwork and tassels just make their clothes look even more beautiful.

I also found some images of the Rashaida costumes circa 2003. These pics look like they have been taken much longer ago then 2003 but nonetheless they have an antique/traditional feel to it.

Before browsing their online store I was secretly holding my breath for some real tribal look-alike garments but instead found some beautiful limited edition prints and a canvas tote with a design inspired by Arabian textiles. It’s not a dress but the tote could be a really nice accessory to lug my laptop around in.

Everything is available to be shipped to the UK – so you’re in luck UKers , the tote is a mere 10 pounds!


Bobble Bee said...

i'm in awe with this post! thanks for sharing such info.

I just posted on how little attention we put on fashion outside paris, london, new york... so thanks for this insight :)

Wafa Obaidat said...

thanks so much bobble bee! I checked out your blog and I think its awesome! Am going to add your link to my blog for sure!

Thanks for the feedback, am really looking forward in covering fashion in the middle east and the Arab world so watch this space!