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Different Thobe Styles | Featuring The Saudi Thobe

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Steeped in history and culture, the thobe has long been an iconic garment in the Middle East and beyond. But what truly makes the thobe a remarkable garment is the incredible diversity of styles it boasts. Each thobe style tells a unique story, reflects a specific cultural heritage, and serves a distinct purpose.

Saudi Arabian Thobes

One of the most common styles we see today is the Saudi Arabian thobe. Saudi Arabia has the largest cultural influence on the Muslim world; millions of people visit Saudi Arabia for the hajj and umrah pilgrimage each year. Likewise, there is the fame of the Saudi imams who lead the prayers, sporting Saudi-style thobes in the great Mosques of Makkah and Madina.

In terms of design, the Saudi Arabian thobe includes a large and stiff collar that usually has two buttons. A front pocket is located on the left-and side above the chest. The most common colour is white, and other light, neutral colours. These colours are most effective in helping remain cool in the heat of the desert. However, other colours can be found, often made of thicker material, designed for the colder winter months. The fit of the Saudi Arabian thobe is usually tighter than other thobe styles.

Emirati and Omani Thobes

Emirati style thobes are quite distinctive; they are collarless with a tassel hanging down from the centre of the neckline. The lapels button together with small, clicky buttons, Emirati thobes typically do not contain a front pocket. Omani thobes are very similar in style to the Emirati thobe. The tassel hangs down from the side of the neckline in the Omani version. Both Omani and Emirati thobes are also referred to as kanduras.

Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Yemeni Thobes

The thobes of the remaining gulf states seem to resemble the Saudi Arabian thobe design with minor differences between each. These styles commonly have a collar, but with only a single button or no buttons at all, in contrast to the dual button collars in the Saudi-style thobe. Qatari thobes can often be found in a shiny, polyester material.

Thobes in all these Arab countries are commonly also referred to as dishdashas. The Arab thobes are typically paired with the iconic middle eastern shawl, known as the shammagh or ghutrah. Likewise, on formal occasions the thobe is worn underneath a bisht, which is a translucent wool cloak.

However in Oman and Yemen, other headwear is more popular, such as the colourful hat known as the kumma, that is commonly worn my Omani people. Also, there is the qawiq hat worn in Yemen.

Moroccan Thobes

Moroccan thobes have a very distinctive design. They’re usually referred to as jillabah or kaftans. The Moroccan style thobe is a very loose-fitting robe, with a pointed hood. Walking through a Moroccan bazaar, you’ll see thobes being sold in a dazzling variety of styles and shades, with stripes of contrasting colours. They’re quite adventurous with comparison to thobes from the other Arab countries which have a relatively formal design and a more tailored fit than their Moroccan counterparts.

South Asian

The kurta is the common style of thobe worn by people of South Asian descent. It’s also known as a kameez, and when paired with matching trousers, the resulting outfit is called shalwar kameez. The origin of kameez comes in the Arabic work qamis. This has been explained in this blog post: What Are Thobes?

Kurtas are available in many different colours and styles, as well as the standard white. They’re shorter than the traditional Arab thobe, usually around knee length or slightly longer. A slit in the sides of the kurta from the waist down allows the wearer more mobility than a traditional thobe.

Casual/Urban Thobes

Most commonly seen in Western countries, this style takes the traditional Arab thobe and adds modern features such as ribbed cuffs, zips or drawcords for added comfort and practicality. In terms of style, the designs are more subversive. In comparison, to the more consistent patterns and colours of traditional Arab thobes. Often, this is done by mixing the traditional thobe with design elements from casual clothing. For example, by including sections of darker colours or patterns to provide contrast on a light coloured thobe. Details such as bold stripes along the sleeves, or in the cuffs and collars can be included too. The colour palette in the casual/urban-styled thobes is typically more neutral, including greys, blacks and browns. These types of thobes pair well with other types of modern, casual clothing.

Conclusion

Whether you’re drawn to the timeless elegance of the classic white thobe, the vibrant colors of the embroidered thobe, or the modern flair of the short sleeve thobe, there’s a style that can resonate with your personal taste and needs.

Moreover, thobe styles continue to evolve, blending tradition with modern design elements, ensuring that they remain relevant and appealing to new generations. The fusion of old and new in thobe fashion exemplifies the dynamic nature of culture and the enduring beauty of tradition.

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