History Project: Jewels and embellishments

Jewels and perfumes were integral components of a woman's attire and were chosen based on the gravity and grandeur of the occasion.
1971 - Girl wearing a Dilal. Photo by Alain Saint Hilaire
1971 - Girl wearing a Dilal. Photo by Alain Saint Hilaire

Umm Abdel Rahman says that age is just a number. Even in her late 70s, she always makes sure to adorn herself with jewels and perfumes.

“Life was beautiful before,” she recalls of her younger days. “There was a sense of togetherness. Beautifying ourselves was part of our upbringing.”

Even in the past, women saw paying attention to their attire as an important part of their lifestyle, and as a young girl, Umm Abdel Rahman enjoyed beautifying herself.

Jewellery was an integral component of women’s adornment. With the right style depending on the right occasion.

If she is going to a wedding, Umm Abdel Rahman loves to wear beautifully embroidered traditional cloth. “I don’t like a tight kandura which outlines my body,” says the mother of nine from Dubai. “I like a loose one. I only wear nice clothes because it makes me feel good.”

For jewellery, she says, she likes to wear Al Marma, a golden ring worn on the middle finger; Al Murta’esha, a wide necklace with hanging designs; Al Meryah, a long necklace; Al Seitmi, a long necklace made of gold and studded with stones; and finally, Bu Shawk, a spiky bracelet.

At home, though, Umm Abdel Rahman says she likes to wear something lighter.

She embraces all colours of the kandura as long as they look stunning, while her everyday wear includes a heart-shaped Murta’esha necklace, a gold ring and a wrist watch.

“I have to look nice every day,” she says enthusiastically. “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.”

Perfuming is also important. “I bath in perfume,” she says. “I love the smell of Dihn Al Oud. I try to make my own fragrance.”

Each day she perfumes her bed with a scent that makes her room smell great. It makes her feel good about herself, she says.


Published: December 1, 2014 04:00 AM