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UAE – Bahraini Ali Al-Shehabi photography calls bullshit on stereotypes of the Arab world.

An undercover fashion story 

The real women of UAE are just as real, just as fashionable and Creative. The rest of the world may see the side to them that’s Oppressed, submissive and backwards as compared to the western world however there’s more to uncover in the tale we’ve been told. This is the fashion story told by real women in the UAE.

The Abaya

The Abhaya is the traditional clothing for women in the UAE. Lot of women may have a lot of questions and pre-decided notions related to this attire. It’s time to eliminate those notions and hear more from these women and what they really have to say. Abayas come in various types of fabrics and the woman’s comfort level will be directly related to what kind of quality her abaya is. In addition to the awful polyester, abayas actually come in really thin lightweight fabrics! 

Women must wear the abaya as long as they are outside their home. The abaya is an outer plain garment worn to hide a woman’s beauty and ornamentation which is not meant for everyone to see. A woman is free to choose what she wears under it- from mini skirts, jeans, fashionable jumpsuits etc… Saudis tend to be very fashion conscious and will don the latest fashion items. The majority of the stores found in western countries can be found in Saudi too.

In Riyadh you will find all the most popular western clothing chains like H&M, Lindex, Miss Selfridge, Monsoon, Guess, Mango, Zara, TopShop etc… The famous department store Debenhams can be found in almost all of the largest malls. There is absolutely no shortage of designer labels and the latest and hottest trends. Oftentimes women wear the most expensive and stylish outfits and accessories.

UAE Women outside fashion clothes

Unveiling the fashion

We already know women all over the world love nice things, gorgeous clothes and designer shoes, Saudi women are no exception , they own this way of life like no other. Women in the UAE love extravagant, luxurious things including clothes and the best part is that most of the time they can very well afford it!.

Rabia Khattak says “I wear an abaya over my pjs in the morning when dropping the kids off to school if I am running late. I wear it over my jeans and tshirt when stepping out to buy milk and eggs if my shirt is short and doesn’t cover my arms. I wear it over my dress when I’m all dolled up for a fun women-only party where most of my friends will arrive in their pretty dresses covered up with an abaya. The abayas go in the coat closet while we chat, eat, dance and have fun. And they are worn again when stepping out”.

With the weather being so hot here for a lot of the year, malls are about the only places you can go and definitely that feeds it!

“Since I’ve spent the majority of my life in the Middle East, I think I can answer that as well. Females were anything ranging from tees, blouses, tunics paired with jeans, leggings, pants, basically any combination that you would find any other female wearing. I guess… it’s not that mysterious after all.”

~ Says Shagufta Ansari

Basics are just as common as Designer clothes and handbags. Women in this country wear all kinds of clothes, and are evidently more comfortable experimental because they have more opportunity to sport a look anytime anywhere without anyone really seeing except your close ones and your friend circles. Along with the extravagant clothes, women here love a gorgeous full face of makeup.

The Dark side 

Arab society is highly gendered, and through female Arab culture, which can sometimes take the cultivation of beauty and femininity to extremes. Women can sometimes feel pressured to look a certain way or dress a certain way – and let me clear this out, it is not to please just men but other Women. For some Saudi some. Women especially in the Gulf regions, their lives majorly revolve around grooming and looking beautiful and of a certain social class.

Women love showing off their expensive  accessories and clothes to other women, this is very usual. “Image is a big thing here,” said blogger Zahra Lyla, she says “If a woman is wearing an open abaya, she will want to make sure that if the wind catches it or if it flaps open while she’s walking, she is wearing something fantastic underneath.”

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While Arabs represent an important part of the world, they usually are excluded from everything in terms of beauty representation. And the Hadid sisters don’t count as Arab models because their mixed Arab ethnicity is often kept under wraps when they are representing brands.

“For us to feel good, we like to know we look good under our abayas,” she said. “I remember a foreign teacher asking us once if we just wore pyjamas, and I was like ‘no way!’” Says Alyoha 
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Alyoha says that she loves different Shoes, which she can show off publicly while wearing her abaya are Hassan’s big passion; her collection includes two pairs of Christian Louboutin heels, Manolo Blahnik satin flats and some Christian Dior crystal-studded trainers (sneakers). Gulf women from oil-rich states, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are arguably some of the best-dressed in the world. And their thirst for luxury fashion is driving retail sales across the Middle East. The average Gulf national spends $2,400 a month on beauty, fashion and gifts, according to a survey by Middle East luxury specialists the Chalhoub Group, and 78% of those surveyed said it was important to “keep up with the latest trends”. 

Seems like a lot of pressure doesn’t it?. A lot of western Women might see this as a form of oppression and expectation set by the Male dominated society, however women from the Country don’t see it that way necessarily . These women love to feel good and dress well , spend on beautiful fashionable products and there’s nothing wrong with that. And what’s more?, women thrive on the competition. The ladies love showing off their looks to other women and hoping for a reaction possibly. Hopefully soon western women will also catch up with the Arab Woman’s fashion expertises.