First Published: 2011-02-07


ADACH publishes “Sultani – Traditions Renewed”


Book documents the traditional women’s dress during the Late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan reign.


Middle East Online

ABU DHABI - The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) has published a very elegant and luxurious book in three bilingual volumes on Emirati traditional women’s dress during the region of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

This step comes as part of ADACH efforts to present UAE’s heritage in an exceptional way. The book, entitled “Sultani- Traditions Renewed” by Dr Reem Tariq El-Mutwalli, incorporates abundant information in a beautiful, contemporary, and readable way. The topic has not been examined before and the book includes significant historic photographs, memoirs, and descriptions, most of which are being published for the first time. The books will enrich both Arab and foreign libraries.

The author, who has lived most of her life in the UAE, proudly dedicates this book to the Late Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of UAE federation, a compassionate leader who guided his people into modernity while encouraging the maintenance of their cultural traditions.

She equally dedicates this book to Sheikha Fatimah bint Mubarak, Chairperson of the General Women's Union, Supreme Chairperson of the Family Development Foundation, and head of the Supreme Council for Maternity and Childhood… For this “mother of the nation”, a profound role model to all UAE women, has greatly shaped and developed the path of UAE women.

Dr. el Mutwalli feels truly privileged to have grown up during their reign and profoundly lucky to have had the opportunity to cherish personal memories of such rare and passionately nationalistic figures.

This important and exquisite new book accurately documents an important aspect of UAE’s history as the modern state became established. Dr. El-Mutwalli examines UAE women's dress between 1966 and 2004. She describes how the traditional clothing of UAE women evolved through several stages of change during these four decades, placing the changes in their historical, cultural, social, economic, political, and ethnic contexts. She traces the impact on fashions of oil wealth, urbanization, access the world market, and the pressures of globalization on the conservative Arab-Islamic society.

The writer specifically studied Emirati women’s dress during the reign of Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, linking him more assertively to the book through a play words in its title as “Sultani” is also the UAE name of a luxurious, glossy silk. While “Traditions Renewed” reflects the fact women's traditional dress, subject to modification, is still worn in the UAE, thus it continues to be present, as was encouraged by Sheikh Zayed during his reign.

Dr. el-Mutwalli was inspired by her belief in the importance of this topic and her awareness that few specialized reference documents and images about the region and period were available. Her objective was to document a rapidly changing and important element of folklore and culture in UAE, and to provide the reader with information and pictures, both old and new, which had not been widely seen before. She has based her book on her 2005 PhD thesis at the University of London entitled “Changes in the traditional dress for women in the United Arab Emirates during the 20th century.”

What particularly distinguishes the book is the recording of the memories and views of several generations of women of the ruling family, other social elites, and professional experts, who graciously provided information, making important contributions to its accuracy and success. Including: Sheikha Ousha bint Shakhboot Al Nahyan, Sheikha Hamda bint Mohammed Al Nahyan, Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, Sheikha Dr. Shamma bint Mohammed Al Nahyan, Sheikha Mozah bint Mubarak Al Nahyan, Sheikha Salama bint Tahnoun Al Nahyan. Socialites such as: Hassa Ebrahim Al Mutawa, Sharifa Mohammed Al Mutawa , Dr. Mozah Ghabash , Asmaa Sadeq Al-Mutawa. Professional dressmakers such as: Fatima bint Saad, Khamisa bint Abdullah. Renowned fabric traders such as: Abdullah Khunji, Pearl Merchants such as Hassan Al Fardan. While, Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has honored the book with an introduction, as has Sheikha Dr. Shamma Bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan.

“Sultani – Traditions Renewed” contains information on the regional and political effects on fashion in the UAE. It examines women's hijab and local culture; tradition and change in UAE society, sewing techniques, fabrics, decorations and embroidery techniques, masks, headgear, covers for the body, dresses, underwear, footwear, clothing and fabric storage.

Dr el-Mutwalli writes: "I have documented in this book the continuity of traditional costumes of the Emirati woman, and their changes during the era of rapid economic and social transformations in order to clarify specific types of fashion that helped the UAE women to hold on to their own and the modern Arab-Islamic identity at the same time."

The book’s beauty and elegance came about as a result of the collaborative effort of a team of several editors and artists. Every page has an Arabic (on the right) and English (left) version, each with different design requirements rendering each page uniquely different on its own. The author’s English was edited by Jenni Gehlbach, translated into Arabic by Raya Mohammad Al-Jazaeri, revised by Mohammed Al-Jazaeri and finally edited by Raeda Daaboul. Artist Mohammed Mandi designed the title calligraphy, while the Artist Hayv Kerman made paintings especially for the book, portraying traditional UAE women’s costume in a modern way. The designer used two of these paintings on the book covers, and the others in the introductions to each of the twenty chapters. The painting of the Emirati artist Fatma Lootah decorates the forward and summary of the book. Some photographs were supplied by the late Arif Al-Bannai others by Zeyad El-Mutwalli. Ali Rohani directed the book’s graphic design in an exceptional way, using Arabic calligraphy, plant motifs, photographs, and details of hand embroideries, making each page in the book a work of art.

The first two volumes contain the researched text and illustrations described above, while the third, slimmer volume is devoted to the contemporary fashion collections designed by Dr. el-Mutwalli for members of the ruling family. Her designs carry the spirit of UAE heritage in innovative lines showing that a fashion designer may take traditional costume and make it even more beautiful by using creativity, decoration, and embroidery in a stylish, modern and visionary way.


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