The Beauty of Arab Traditional Attire of North Africa
By: Ala Abed-Rabbo/Arab America Contributing Writer
Moroccan Traditional Thobes
The beauty of traditional Arab attire is a foremost trait, especially in the North African Arab countries, such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Morocco, located, (see map below), in the extreme northwestern part in Africa, lies in the Sahara Desert and is an area where the climate is usually heated.
Moroccans follow a vibrant culture and civilization. Such a culture inspires their way of living life, mannerism, clothing, and cuisine. Arab ethnic groups lead the population by tradition, so the clothing mostly goes according to the Moroccans own style and custom.
Moreover, “djellaba” made from different materials, such as, (cotton, wool, cashmere, silk), is the customary Moroccan apparel for both men and women, which is a long loose robe with full sleeves, and a pointed hooded garment. For special events, they also wear a red cap, which is locally known as “fez.”
The women dress “caftans” dazzled by adornments with beautiful braiding, beads, and sequins sewn onto luxurious materials. The difference between the attires is that a djellaba has hood while caftans do not.
Also, djellabas for women are commonly very much draped with beads or decorations and are bright in color. On the other hand, the Men’s djellaba or caftans are dull in color. Moroccan women are very dedicated to their cultural wear despite its expensive cost. Due to their delicacy, caftans are handmade.
The Moroccan Clothing
A “takshita” dress is long, loose, made up of two pieces, and a belt with stunning designs and details. Caftans and takshitas are worn at childbirths, funerals, weddings, and other commemorations that merit dressing up. Also, “balghas” are traditional Moroccan soft slipper shoes with a pointed end, no back part, and made from leather. Many people wear them daily.
Also, a “gandora” is like a djellaba, and the most significant difference is that it has shorter sleeves and has no hood. It is worn by men and women and comes in a variety of colors.
The Tunisian Attire
Tunisians celebrate their heritage on March 15 of every year by donning traditional fashions in public. Both men and women proudly wear veils, costumes, and a beautiful dress to display their dedication to maintain national identity.
Moreover, a very famous male costume in Tunisia is called the “jebba.” It is made of silk and wool. It also nearly covers the full body as the forearms and calves show. The garment can be worn with a “farmla” which is a vest. “It is a vest full of large gold braids. Wide opened; it is full of buttons with buttonholes.” The jebba outfit is finished off with a jacket, called a “montane” with baggy “sarouel” (or sherwaal/trousers). The sarouel ornamented with sewn patterns or accessory pockets at the bottom. Tunisian men wear them with a belt (maybe silk ) to keep them held together.
The men also wear a woolen “tunic” with long sleeves. “Burnoose” is made of a heavy wool robe and is worn in the winter, and it is a long, loose hooded cloak. The people residing in the northern regions of Tunisia wear “kachabiya,” which is an item of clothing like burnoose but colored in white and brown stripes.
Tunisian Women Clothing
Tunisian women have many more variations of customary clothing than men do. Even though young females regularly favor Western-style attire to traditional costumes, a lot of Tunisian women still wear national apparel in everyday life. Occasionally, people use the full set of typical costumes, but generally choose separate pieces, for instance, scarves or headdresses.
In Tunisia, one of the most common urban outfits consists of an embellished chemise, baggy pants, and white silk or woven veil called “sefseri” to cover the head. A “fouta” and a “blouza” are another typical Tunisian outfit. The fouta, worn from the waist to the ankles, and it is a wrap-around skirt and made from cotton or silk.
Tunisian stitching is distinctive, vibrant, and intricate. There are many methods of sewing. Very colorful, silver, and golden threads used. Embroidered costumes are not only magnificent, but the patterns have a symbolic meaning laid into each part.
Moreover, Algerian fashion is very distinct. It was formed by the impact of three different empires: Arab, African, and the Mediterranean. The geographic position of Algeria in history was the reason for culture mixing: meetings, trading, and interactions between the three territories were joint. That is why Algerian clothing is vibrant and different.
Algerian men wear a “burnous,” a long woolen cloak with a hood. Typically, a burnous is white and consists of fine thin wool, often festive, decorated with embroidery, braids, and patterns on the fabric. The men also wear a djellaba and are made from wool (traditional variation) or cotton (modern robes). The colored djellaba represents married men and dark brown colors for bachelors.
Men also wear baggy trousers with a wide fabric belt, a shirt, and a jacket or vest. A “fez” is the traditional Algerian male headdress. “It is a felt tight-fitting cap in the shape of a short cylinder. Usually, a fez is red.” Male shoes are leather “babouche” slippers or sandals are often used for religious ceremonies.
Algerian Women Clothing
The traditional female garments are generally bright, colorful, modest in layout, and richly adorned. Cotton, wool, and velvet are the fabrics used to make clothes. The decorative stitching often used with gold and silver threads, lace, designs on the fabric, and jewelry.
“Karakou” is one of the traditional Algerian dresses. It always has a velvet jacket decorated with gold threads. Typically, the jacket is worn with the customary Arab trousers called “saroual,” but modern-day karakou can be worn with a long skirt. Algerian women sometimes wrap a fouta, which is a rectangular piece of thin cloth with different shapes, over the saroual.
A “djeba” is the Algerian traditional celebratory dress and usually worn by brides. The clothing material is lavish, elegant, and beautiful; it can be decorated with lace, embroidery, beads, glitters, jewelry, and other ornaments. Also, women’s shoes consist of natural materials and often are richly decorated with stitching and bead-work.
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