Overhead abayaat gracefully…

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Ramadhan Mobarek sisters…how is it going for you all? For some reason by 4pm my brain turns to mush! I have been wanting to update this blog now for a few days but everytime I sit down to do it, I feel sapped of all energy. LOL. regardless, I will try to get out the posts I have been meaning to get out and I’m also going to be doing a review for a US based hejab company over the weekend so I’m excited about that!~ *woot! woot*

Anyway, those who have read this blog for a long time know I have a thing for overhead overgarments…be they overhead abayaat or the French overhead jelbabs…I really think they are both awesome and find the overhead abayaat especially elegant.

But…they are not alway easy to wear, particularly if your clueless about how to wear them and think if you just pop one on your head and stick a pin in, that you will miraculously rock one. LOL. I know…I sound mean…but I know several western sisters who try to wear them but always have problems with them and then wonder why…like they slide or get in their way. Ive worn them enough in my life to know you cant just pop one on, and instantly feel at home in it! So they do take some expertise and knowledge. Ive found certain cuts, fabrics and styles are more comfortable than others.

Anyway…I’ve posted a lot about them and will below put up a few of my previous posts relating to them. For comfort reasons I have elastic in all of mine and all of mine are from Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iran. I find the Bahraini and Kuwaiti ones the most comfortable as the head area is wider which I find more suitable to wearing with elastic but, call me old fashioned but I like the traditional square batwing with the internal seams! I have my old standbys from Saudi that I wore daily while over there, and the Iranian and Lebanese ones which are good too, but a bit too baggy and lacking in the drape, weight and elegance the Gulf ones possess…yes…a garment can be a huge square and have a stylish look!

This post was prompted by the sister who runs the blog Muslimah in Solace where they mentions buying an overhead and having a hard time with it.

Anyway…here are some tips/tricks Ive learnt over the years through wearing them, lived in the Gulf and watching sisters who have worn them since childhood verrryyyy closly… (lol, that sounds weird, but really, mimicking those who “know” often provides the best education)

1) NO PINS!

Please…your asking for a ripped abaya ra’as if you do cuz if you sit down, stand up or move and dont know how to do so in an overhead AND you have a pin in…RIIIIPPPPPPP…..or at minimum…head yank syndrome…not cool!

2) PUT ELASTIC in the abaya ra’as…yes Iranian chador wearers started the trend and its frankly a good idea!  If worse comes to worse and you move wrong the thing will just come off your head, nothing will rip…the elastic will help to keep it on and you can push a stroller, do grocery shopping, pick up a crazy child, buy food, eat food…even go down a water slide and the thing will stay on. Trust me…I know this!!! LOL

3) RIGHT WEIGHT…yes…the best overheads have a good cut and weight to the fabric. I’m not talking super thick, hot fabric which makes tyou roast and gives yopu a headache…but a properly made, high quality overhead does have some weight to it, as traditionally they are just rested on the head and then slide around as worn…anything which is made of a material with no weight-i.e. some cheapo, super thin fabric (unless its the traditional Kuwaiti abaya ra’as which is made in a semi-sheer georgette like crepe-yes its thin, but due to the internal seams has weight…so…voila!)…then they will be harder to control. I’m talking mostly about the more updated, Saudi style ones which have the curved hem and no internal seaming for weight. You either need the internal seam with the light fabrics or something with a bit more weight if there is no internal seam.

Oh…if your confused…like whats in internal seam… its this style…i.e. the old school abaya ra’as style where the thing is curved from the inside via seams around knee-level.

4) MOVE RIGHT…you can be very active in an overhead-contrary to popular belief…but you just have to know “their language”…like you dont just plop down and  randomly stand up…there is a method of gathering the fabric for sitting and standing back up. I have read online some western sisters do not want to do this for fear of showing the clothing they have on under it or showing the body, but guess what…in the Gulf…the women have no problems gathering their abayaat up around themselves for sitting, praying or standing…thats just what you do and you dont show the body when doing that anyway.

For example…in Saudi many of the abaya ra’as wearing women will walk holding a portion of their abaya in their hand to keep it up off the ground in the front. In Bahrain the women will literally wrap their abaya ra’as around themselves, tucking excess fabric under their arms…in Iraq and Kuwait they leave it open, over a house dress but pinch it slightly closed in the front, but otherwise…its open and blowing in the breeze.

Thats just how its done…

5) Wear the right stuff under.

Again, contrary to popular belief amongst some Muslim women in the west…you dont layer 10 things under your abaya ra’as…in the Gulf most women wear either jeans and a tunic or teeshirt OR a long, loose house jalabeeya…depending on conservativism and location and style of abaya ra’as, Obviously…an open traditional Kuwaiti abaya ra’as requires a bit more clothing on under than a modern, closed, Saudi one. In the Kuwaiti or Bahraini (or Iraqi) open style ones you need a long jalabeeya or atleast a knee or calf length tunic and jeans to cover everything incase it opens while walking (obviously youd hold it shut while walking…LOL)…the modern Saudi ones are basically like a shoulder abaya but go up over the head so you can get away with a teeshirt and jeans and a scarf.

…If the wind blows and you dont want your form shown…what they do in the Gulf is hold it away from themselves in the front a little bit. Voila.. no hassles.

May I also add that you dont have to be a niqabi to wear an overhead…again, here in the US Ive noticed its usually niqabis who wear them, but in the Gulf…women who do and do not wear niqab wear the abaya ra’as…and personally ive had some sisters come up to me – esp at the masjid I attend, asking why I wear them but dont wear niqab. LOL…well, overhead abaya doesnt necessarily equal niqabi…one can wear niqab and a shoulder abaya and vise versa…so…obviously non-niqabis can wear the overhead too. Personally I wear mine a lot like the British Bahraini TV hostess Zahra Al-Alawi with the colored scarves under the overhead…which I think look really nice and kinda more “friendly” and “unique”.

Previous related posts…

1) Putting elastic in an overhead abaya.

2) Overheads in KSA and my take on them

28 thoughts on “Overhead abayaat gracefully…

  1. I agree with you for the most part, some of the middle eastern overheads though are designed to be worn resting very far back on the head so if you put elastic in the top it throws the whole garment forward in a sense, in a way it wasn’t designed to be. I have had some success though adding a tie back to some of my gulf overheads both modern and traditional designs, by making the tie back fairly wide it keeps the original part designed to rest on the top of the head in the correct place but also the tie back holds it on comfortably. I know tie backs are not rveryone’s thing but in my experience a well constructed tie back can make a huge difference to overheads where putting elastic in may not work. The other thing I wanted to say is the two best types of overhead I have tried are the traditional Egyptian malhafa, doesn’t work for everyone but for me drapes very elegantly, stays on the head with no hassle and the hand holes are cut so small that no underneath sleeves or clothing is needed. My other fave are the modern Yemeni overheads, sunnah style did briefly sell a very similar design but they have stopped now. They are made in a very soft lightweight Internet crepe but due to the way they are constructed this fabric doesn’t end up being clingy or sticky at all, and they drape perfectly and cover properly without dragging or having to be held when walking etc. The best Saudi overheads I have found are those that are tailored for an individual or tailored in small batches for a specific store or seller, the ones that are mass produced on a large scale are no good.

    • asalaamu alaikum…jazakh’Allah’Khair sis for your input. As far as Gulf style overheads are concerned Ive always found them to be made to sit right on the crown of the head (directly top, center) or closer to the forehead depending on the style. The modern Gulf overheads-like whats popular in Saudi Arabia nowadays are cut to fit around the head closer on the assumption the wearer will probably be wearing niqab and they do sit directly on the crown area. adding elastic to them does not change where they sit, as it would look silly and be highly uncomfortable to pull one of these forehead to sit closer to the hairline…your right in that, doing so would throw off the whole style, drape and weight. Now, though the traditional abayaah ra’as like whats still worn in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and southern Iran (and very rarely in the Eastern provinces region of Saudi, along the Gulf coast where they indeed are traditional to the area, unlike say western Saudi where they are not)…those are cut to be more open and the women who wear them and grew up wearing them tend to wear them quite foreward on the head, close to the hairline as they sit better and stay put much better. Infact if your ever in Bahrain, you’ll see, some just put them on top of the head, close to the hairline and then clutch them under the chin. In those areas the Niqab like what people normally consider as niqab is a modern “innovation” and traditionally the women just wore a gatwah/gashwiyeh/rubandeh/boushiyyah-all the same name for just a piece of cotton mesh worn over the head and face-historically probably over the beaked burqha…so there was no need to wear them further back on the head. For the traditional ones, you can put elastic in them and they still will fit the same way.
      The only country where I know they also now-adays wear an overhead is Egypt and your right the Isdals are made to be worn far back and pinned…the malhafa…I dunno…maybe the same way, but since those garments are new to that area they dont have the same historical context. Ive never heard of a yemeni style abaya ra’as…esp as abaya ra’as is not traditional to Yemen as its not a Gulf country…I though they have something similar from what ive seen of pictures in the traditional Sana’a style attire. So I guess it really depends…I dont disagree about tie-backs on an abaya ra’as…Ive never tried that and I think it would work, but it wouldnt be ideal, esp. if you dont wear niqab and wear it over a seperate scarf as youd have to match the scarf to the abaya ra’as since the forhead would be where the tieback would be…right? kinda like a French overhead jelbab…Again, I dont know…Ive never tried that. I generally just stick elastic in mine and it works very very well. When I was in Saudi I had quite a few Saudi women coming up to me in malls who wore abaya ra’as and asked how I managed to keep mine on so well hereas theirs would always slide down and theyd have to readjust…this esp occured when id be in the ladies rest areas/prayer rooms of the malls.
      Personally though I would think the tie-backs could get bothersome as they have less “give and take” then elastic…like if you step on the hem really badly, the abaya will just pop off your head and you wont really be ripping it or yanking your head badly…verses tie-backs Id think would be a bit less forgiving and may not pop off as easily…again, I dont know. Also if you notice in the pictures I posted…the Kuwaiti abaya I have on sits at about my crown area, and its quite firm and doesnt move around or slide back. Its not too back nor too foreward…its pretty average…

      • The Yemeni overheads are very similar in cut to the modern Emirati ones. I don’t know but all the different overheads I have had regardless of which country they were from are cut so they are designed to rest in the centre of the head or even balance on the back, you can tell from the bottom hem, if worn forward on the head or even over the forehead a little the will be much much shorter at the back and dragging at the front, but when worn fairly far back on the head the bottom hem is even and perfect, with a bit of drag at the back but the perfect length at the front. I tried putting elastic in one of them and when worn on the head where it was designed to, it just pinged off as it was too far back. This was a traditional head abaya from Saudi that had been tailored for a small business in the UK. A well-constructed tie back will offer a good level of freedom of movement and also slip off the head should you step or sit on the abaya at the back (provided its not tied too tightly), also a well constructed tie back can be worn on top of the overgarment or tied and worn inside depending on preference. Most of the overgarments the Somali sisters wear here do have a tie-back and many of them wear them over patterned scarves, it looks fine to me.

      • asalaamu alaikum…again I have no experience with the tie-backs since they are more of a thing you see from the UK not the US…atleast from what Ive seen. About the overheads though…the traditional Gulf ones are always longer in the back…like the ones from EP KSA, Iraq, southern Iran and Bahrain and maybe also Kuwait. Always as they are worn more foreward. I think your more used to “Saudi” overheads made in the UK for the UK market and yes Ive seen on British Ebaythey tend to be longer in the front then the back…but the traditional Gulf ones are always a bit longer in the back…always-even the traditional kind with the center seaming, if you lay them out the back is quite a bit longer than the front, as they tend to be worn more forwards or right on the crown-which is in the center of the head. In the western part of Saudi, or Yemen or Egypt the abaya ra’as is not traditional to the area so maybe they make them different. The Lebanese overheads are cut a bit funny too…I chalk it up to lack of knowledge about how they are made more than anything else. But really…like who cares? LOL…I think you and I are the only ones who do. LOL.

        Here are some pictures ive found online of Gulf women in overheads…they are always around the crown area (top of head) or more forward

        *darnit, when I put them in, wordpress deleted the pictures…but any search for bahrain abaya or Iraq abaya will show the women in the overheads*

      • The “modern” Emirati ones are basically like a spin off of the modern Saudi ones and in the EP area of Saudi the Emirati “cut” is considered the kind with sleeves which criss-crosses in the front, tieing at the side…so do you mean that style? Ive seen many women from the UAE when we were in Saudi as they often came through Khobar on their way to the Hejaz for Umrah and most wore shoulder abayaat or if they wore overheads wore the style which is the same as the modern Saudi kind-and you kno they are Emirati as their men have a different thobe and shmagh style from saudi’s so they stand out. I guess it wouldnt be hard for that style to show up in Yemen cuz a lot of their men go to the Gulf to work…like India or something…they all go back with gulf stuff and then try to copy it.

  2. Sorry for some reason I couldn’t see my comment if I wrote anymore in one go. I was also going to say if someone prefers a tie-back and are handy with a needle they could add a coloured or printed tie back to an overhead and you could make a matching scarf for under-of course this would limit what else you could wear with the overhead but I think it would look pretty cool. A sister here used to make khimars like that but with the same tie-back thing going on.

  3. Salam aleykum khahar,

    Ik have one of those overhead chadors ebay.
    It`s from Egypt.

    In Iran i wore it a couple of times and took it of my head so it`s longer for me.
    All abaya`s are to short for me, but this way it soots me🙂
    I need to order a longer one, they make them longer @ sunnahstyle.com

    The first 2 days of ramazan were very difficult for me.
    Now it`s getting better alhamdulillah.

    XO Arezu

    • Actually sis all the Saudi overheads I have had have been made in Jeddah or Riyadh, the labels in them have phone numbers from there and I’ve actually bought some of them direct from Saudi of course so thry werent UK made. In some cases a UK store had them made but to a Saudi design. I’ve only ever had one overhead made in the UK itself anytime recently and that was the at thiyaab one and that had a tie back and wasn’t Saudi style at all but their own design. The overheads I had that were not suitable to be worn far forward on the head were considerably longer at the back complete with drag piece, sometimes 1-2 foot longer at the back when laid out but the way they were cut they only work when worn fairly far back on the head. Otherwise the whole abaya is bunched up towards the front, there’s like a gap at the sides at the bottom, and they are then too long at the front. Also you can tell by the shoulder seams, when worn as intended the shoulder seams of an overhead should be roughly on the shoulders and going down the arms at the top, when worn forward at the top many overheads the shoulder seam is forward and down by 1-2 foot and it just drapes wrong. The exception would be the traditional Bahraini abaya which seems to have been designed to have the shoulder seams low.

      By modern emirati style I mean it’s a style that over here is often imported from Dubai, it’s a simple straight cut closed abaya with a rounded face/head hole and a tie back, some have sleeves but the ones I like have quite a narrow cuff made from doubled fabric that comes from halfway down the forearm and negate the need for finger loops, as the doubled fabric stops the arms from slipping, only issue with those is they can’t be pushed up to make wudu. Most mass produced Emirati overhead abayas of that style do have a tie back. Some Uk based tailors particularly the Somali ones have started making overheads with tie backs but I’ve been told this is something copied from garments originally from Dubai that ladies brought to them to copy.

      • salaamu alaikum. Unfortunately the overhead is not traditional to Jeddah or Riyadh so I’d be wary of taking overheads from those 2 cities as examples of decent overheads. The overhead is traditional to the Gulf and Riyadh is not considered “Gulf”…anyway…to each their own… if you ever get a chance to try a real gulf overhead abaya you may realise the differences between the styles.

      • I have tried a real gulf overhead as it happens, an elderly revert brother gave it to me as a gift many moons ago and he used to live in the EP which is where he got it, and a sister also gave me the shoulder abaya version (the same but cut shorter and narrower), but anyway if you go back far enough anywhere you’ll find in the past they didn’t wear formed overheads as they wear now, instead wearing non formed wrap type garments, it just depends on the area how long ago this was. I don’t think it’s really correct to say the traditional gulf overhead is the only proper style of overhead abaya, many different styles of overhead have evolved over time in different places, it’s not like they only started wearing overheads in Riyadh and Jeddah last week after all, we’re talking at least 80-100 years. In some areas of Najd it’s not socially acceptable to wear anything other than an overhead abaya so I’m sure by now they are used to making them and wearing them by now. While the city folk in Hejaz don’t tend to wear overheads the bedouin do and have done for quite some time as far as I know.

      • And I don’t see why when a garment is designed to be worn further back on the head or has a tie back how this makes it not a ‘decent overhead’? Yes I do realise there are big differences between styles from different regions but just because a style isn’t your personal favourite doesn’t mean it’s no good. Altogether I’ve been wearing overheads for 14 years, on and off and aside from the Lebanese ones I’ve tried on every style going. The Egyptian Malhafa and the modern Yemeni one I have are the most wearable and comfortable and the runner up is a Saudi overhead made in Jeddah but it has a wider part that rests on the head than most Saudi overheads, it doesn’t have an internal seam but is made of a more substantial Internet crepe and the bottom hem is perfect, I just don’t wear it that often as its totally open and I do only feel comfortable wearing it on top of a shoulder abaya. As I said sis I agree with you for the most part it’s just a few types of perfectly good overheads are just designed to be worn in a slightly different fashion so a tie back on those works better in my very humble experience

  4. Assalaamu alaykum. I’m also a big fan of the Egyptian malhafa. I stopped wearing them after having kids cos of the volume of fabric but since adding elastic they’re totally doable again alhamdulilah!

  5. Fair dos. Just one last thing, there are a few sisters here in London who prefer to wear their batwing overhead abayas far forward or over their forehead, and they have said to me that they have had to buy one in a bigger/longer size (since as the length increases the arm span does also) and then get it altered by a tailor so the hem is a lot shorter at the front, it’s left just as long at the back, possibly removing some of the bulk fabric from the front and also in some cases where possible the shoulder seams are cut and resewn so they’ll be on the shoulder still when worn forward, drastic but it makes overheads designed to be worn far back on the head wearable when worn more forward. Maybe for those sisters living in London who find it difficult to wear an overhead far back on the head maybe they need to seek out one of these tailors?

  6. By the way I just wanted to sincerely thank you UmmIbi as you know I bought an overhead abaya in Madinah a few months back, it’s one of those no label tailored in small batches jobs. Top notch quality but didnt cost too much because I got it from the little known underground markets in Madinah, but its better quality than many of the designer abayaat in Saudi for sure. I couldn’t get it to ‘work’ and the arms seemed a tad too short, it seemed a tad too short at the front and kept pinging off my head. I was thinking I must’ve just got the wrong size even though the man in the shop swore it was the biggest and longest one available. I put it in my wardrobe and left it. Well just tonight I tried it forward over my forehead something I hadn’t tried due to all the other Saudi overheads working far back on the head. Wow what a transformation, honestly the arms are now a perfect length, length is perfect front and back and it stays perfectly on my head no need for anything to keep it on, it even stays relatively well closed at the front despite being an open abaya (it’s a super traditional design and has a small tassel tie at the chest). Nice one, jazakAllaahkhayr. I think the key is if an overhead is not working for you play around with it a bit

    • LOOL! sis ur a trip…mash’Allah…if its the traditonal style which is straight in the front, not the modern style then yes that makes sense…thats why anytime tyou see Bahraini, Kuwaiti or Iraqi or even southern Irani women in the traditional abaya ra’as you notice they wear them quite up front. They just fit better that way. The traditional ones are quite different from the modern kind. I have a sleeved traditional one from Kuwait and it fits the same as the old school Kuwaiti and Bahraini ones I have. LOL. Anyway…glad it works now…maybe try elastic too…you may be surprised. *wink*. I am going to en’sha’Allah be trying a tie-back one hopefully soonish…so we’ll see how that goes. glad its working for you thou…alhamdullah

  7. Yep it looks almost exactly like the traditional Bahraini ones except it doesn’t have an internal seam (doesn’t need it as the fabric is quite substantial) and the head part is slightly narrower. Also it’s made from a modern silky crepe fabric as opposed to silk. Had to ask for it in the store as the overhead abayas are never out on display, you feel like you’re buying something contraband-lol! Yep let me know how the tie back one is, there’s a big difference between a decently constructed tie back and the crappy ones, as well as adding tie backs onto stuff there are abayas where I’ve taken them off as well, such as one which was a batwing overhead and the store had obviously requested them to sew it up the front and add a tie-back onto it, the tie back was sewn on in such a way that you couldn’t turn your head and also had a raised seam on the inside so it was itchy. I unpicked it and got rid ASAP. The only problem then was that the tie back when tied did lift the bottom hem a tad so I’d hemmed it accordingly (it was a 70 but about a foot longer even in the front than any other 70 I’ve had) and now the bottom hem is slightly too long, doh!

  8. Asaalam waliytkum.

    Wow you two both know your stuff. Jazakallah khier for the post it makes things a lot clearer. inshallah want to give the abaya another go. I will try altering the length and width. And give it another stab. Will deffo’ check out how to add elastic…. but i am not sure if it will work with my style of abaya. Its a batwing like a huge rectangle when laied flat the part that rests on the head is wide, the seam for it comes to the temples. I dont want to ruin it:/

    I am going to saudi arabia for umrah inshallah, will be going to mecca then medina and then Jeddah. Do you know of any decent places to buy these over head abayas.

    Also do you know any good shops to get some nice prayer outfits and khimars at a resonable price? Jazakallah khier

    Great post sis😀 very detailed and you deffo’ know your stuff!!! i have a lot to learn inshallah… i only started to wear hijab 5 years ago and only started to wear full jilbab last year.

    wasalam -x-

    • asalaamu alaikum…actually sis…yes you can indeed put elastic into the huge traditional square abaya ra’as…infact if you see my archives for this subject you will see, I show how to add it in. Ive added it in to both my Kuwaiti and Bahraini abaya ra’as which are just a huge square, seaming in the center, very wide head and straight opening. But I can also do a new post to show if you really do need help. Its not hard at all though and will work well with that style too.

      As far as shopping in the Hejaz goes…sister I lived in the eastern provinces in Khobar and in that region of Saudi the overhead is traditional womans attire, unlike in the Nejd or Hejaz…all along the Gulf the abaya ra’as is the type of garment the women wore..so they make very very good abaya ra’as there…esp if you go to Bahrain…like the best, mash’Allah…but, I tried to shop a little in Makkah and Medinah on Omrah when I went twice and both times I was very very very sorely disappointed, most of the abayaat they sell are junk and very expensive. You can get good stuff I’m sure, but I couldnt find anyplace. You can go to bedoon essm or sharqiyah which are pan Gulf abaya shops and Bedoon Essm does have good abaya ra;’as and Gulf women do shop there but their stuff averages aorund 300sr for a good abaya ra’as…but the regular abaya shops which cater to foreign, non-gulf pilgrims sell very poor quality stuff at crazy, crazy prices…Maybe Jeddah is better…I dunno…

  9. Yes indeedy I just went to Saudi 4 months ago mashaAllaah. May Allaah bless your trip and accept your umrah, Ameen! Makkah I would not bother shopping there at all, the clothing is very tacky but they’ll charge you an arm and six legs for it, the only thing we got from Makkah was food and even that was outrageously pricey. We’d get a few bits from bin dawood (supermarket chain) drinks, cheese spread, bread etc and it would come to the equivalent of £30. For a not very good abaya you’re looking at anything between £50-£70. In the past I would have said avoid Madinah too but in the past couple of years malls underneath the hotels immediately behind the various gates of The Prophet Salallaahu Alaihi Was Sallam’s masjid have really come in to their own, I’ve heard they’ve been there for years but used to be fairly lacklustre but now every unit is in use and there’s a lot of competition between the different outlets. My tip with those shops is do not go to the ones next to the entrance as they are more pricey but go to the ones much further into the buildings and in the basement, these ones get less immediate passing trade and their rents are much lower. When it comes to overhead abayas mostly they are sold under the counter, most shops will have only 1 or 2 styles if that, often 1 closed modern style and 1 open style. Just ask for abaya ra’as. I did have to enquire at a few of the stalls/shops before finding one that sold overheads and also the first one they showed me I didn’t like. Do make sure you try it on before buying its fine to do this over whatever else you’re wearing, they really don’t mind. Also make sure you barter you should be able to get at least 1/3-1/2 off the original asking price. Jeddah the best places are Baab Makkah which is the very old traditional market, if you follow it round then you end up coming up to an underpass and beyond that there’s another shopping centre which is also fairly cheap and has a few decent, cheap abayaat shops etc. Baab Makkah is rather seedy so keep your wits about you. The other place that is nice and has various styles of overheads is Suheyfa Mall, it’s actually a Somali mall and rumour has it that most of the shop owners are from the UK lol, it’s directly next to the Golden Mercure hotel in al-kandarah district. They are very welcoming in there.

  10. Ooh and there’s a new hoody/extra layer style of overhead out in Saudi, it’s like a normal half-sleeved overhead without a tie back that is open at the front (fastens with poppers or snaps) and it fits up on top of the head in the same way but the hood is sewn on top of that and is pulled up over the flat bit that rests on the head, if that makes sense. Sounds weird but it actually looks pretty cool and the hood helps to cover and disguise the shape of your head and shoulders even more than usual. It’s not like the hoody style you had on your blog Ummibi as that was essentially a shoulder abaya with a big hood, this is a true overhead but with a big hood that is made starting from the front left seam where the abaya fastens right around to the front right seam and it comes from about halfway down your back so it’s huge. It’s a flat bottomed hood not a pointy one. A sister was selling it at a community Iftar last night but she only had a 64 or 66 which is way too short for me. They definitely didn’t have these in Saudi when I went so I believe it really is the latest design.

    • asalaamu alaikum…yes what ur saying is 100% right. I had wanted to buy an abaya in Makkah just to have, as a souvenier but was SHOCKED at the horrible material and the extravegant prices…even the cheapoest abaya they told me 400sr and when I told them I lived IN Saudi and no, it wasnt worth more than 100sr the guy started screaming at me. LOOOL. Ditto for Medinah. Yeah…I ould recommend Bedoon essm…of which there are 2 in the mall behind the Haraam, the top floor one is actually a marked down, previous season one…the kind of abaya ra’as with the top piece hich flips up…I have blogged about and they are called “qajaf ra’as”…head shoulder abaya…you can get those and the modern Saudi style abaya at bedoon Essm…yes u will pay around 300sr but the quality IS good…wallahi.

      Let us kno how it goes…

  11. Sis I know the style you blogged about and this new style is different, nothing in it rests on the shoulders, it’s entirely a head abaya but just has an extra layer/hood on top of the upper portion. It looks a bit like the traditional Yemeni khimar in some ways but it’s like the top layer of it is sewn on upside down in comparison to that and the hood is made of the exact same fabric of the abaya and is not sheer unlike the top layers of the Yemeni khimar. But imagine a Yemeni khimar where the screens are a hood instead that’s the closest visual I can think of. When the sister brought it out I thought it was going to be an abaya ra’as with built in eye screens which I have seen before but no it was a totally new style. I looked in all the designer Saudi stores and the markets when I was there and I did see the shoulder head abaya style but they definitely didn’t have this style nor have I ever seen anyone wearing it. I would have taken a pic but didn’t want the sister to think I wanted to get the design copied or something, lol. Had she had my size I would have bought it.

    • Assalaamu alaykum.
      I’ve been wearing something which sounds very similar to what you’re describing, for about 4 years now though I’ve never seen them sold elsewhere nor seen anyone wearing one. It’s a true overhead but with a hood! Just lately I’ve started seeing similar ones made as prayer outfits becoming the popular style of prayer outfit around Cairo. No idea where the vendor I bought from got the two I bagged years ago but they were nicely made and have lasted through very heavy use mashaAllah.

  12. And in general I agree about Madinah but those little shops/stalls in the ‘secret’ malls under the hotels really are good. The two abayaat I got are better quality than Bedoon Essm’s plain abayaat but as they are a no label item they were cheap. First one a shoulder bisht style abaya with jersey cuffs, superbly made, beautiful quality fabric, seams all perfectly neat and the fit just perfect the guy was asking originally 250sr but in the end he gave it for 140sr which is about £23, probably could have got it down a bit more but we made the mistake of going into the store right next to the mall entrance. Second one the abaya ra’as, same thing quality absolutely top notch and the guy originally asked for 200sr but got it down to 120sr which at the time was £20. In many cases the Madinah malls have become cheaper than Baab Makkah in Jeddah because last year DH got me an abaya from there which is not all that great and he still got charged 120sr for it, similar abayaat were being sold in Madinah for 60-80sr so he got ripped off lol. They also have some 40 riyal abayaat, some of them the quality really isn’t bad at all they started using decent quality saloona fabric for some of them and the embroidery and decorations are in most cases applied very well. I say most cases because the quality control is shocking so you really need to check them. They are just not very modest most of them being made very slim fitting and very flashy in design, we did buy some as gifts for the teenaged daughters of my husband’s friend though and that family often goes to Dubai and gets designer abayas from there. We were worried the 40 riyal abayas wouldn’t be to their taste but they absolutely loved them, said they were way better than anything they’d bought in Dubai and they must’ve been really expensive. If only they knew, mwuhahaha!

    Anyway the other thing to look out for in the Madinah malls and also baab Makkah are the 2 riyal shops, kinda like a 50p shop. These sell a lot of cool knick knacks for around 40p, knee high stockings which they sell in London for £2 a pair, gloves (sometimes better quality than the abayaat shops and often more generously sized too), men’s and boy’s kufis, household and kitchen items etc. Another speciality in Madinah is pyrographed and engraved items, most of which cost 10riyals including the engraving! Prayer outfits and house dresses Suheyfa mall and baab Makkah are best. I did get a couple of nice Jalabiyas from Madinah though since I’m tall only two styles were long enough for me in the entire store lol. Those cost 80sr each, the exact same ones were being sold in the mall in Makkah for 300sr, just goes to show the difference!

    • salaamu alaikum…Ohh I would like to see that style of abaya ra’as you saw…I really cant even imagine it…alas.

      Abt the Makkah and Medinah goods…yes, most are very atrocious, beyond cheap and too flashy. Unfortunately many pilgrims who go dont realise that Saudi and Gulf omen dont wear that stuff at all…unless maybe they are very very poor and must buy from the 5 riyal shops…and hence do wear 50sr abayaat…but in general, even the poorest women…they will still buy a better quality abaya-esp a plain overhead in a decent crepe…like forsan or something for 100-150sr…they just dont do that cheapo tat which proliferates in the haramayn…even some of my husbands saudi students when he told them we were going for Omrah told him…dont buy anything there!! The stuff in Khobar and Dammam is extremely high quality and very very good prices, esp when compared to the haramayn shops… like a high quality, very neat, PLAIN bisht in forsan would average around 100-200sr dept on shop…but the quality was always extremely high. You really only ever saw maids wearing the super, duper cheapo stuff…the stuff that people on omrah buy and come back with…its rather unfortunate actually…anyway…just my 2 cents. Just if you do go and plan to shop…be very very careful and try to stick with the shops you see actual Gulf women buying in…around the haraam in Makkah it was like Bedoon Essm and Sharqiyah and maybe 1 or 2 other abaya shops in the mall. If you go into an abaya shop and its full of SE Asians or westerners…then its probably not worth your time…sad to say…but thats the jive I got, esp as I was thrown out of 3 shops for trying to bargain abt prices and saying I lived in Saudi. LOL

      • Yeah its a really new unique style of overhead, Dh’s aunt is in Saudi atm but I dont think she will get what I mean if I describe it to her so she can get me one. I personally wouldn’t buy anything from the Makkah mall (except food!) as the prices are just too outrageous and the Madinah ones I’d only advise buying from the shops right under the hotels, there are some shops that are outside around the edges and these tend to be really pricey and selling really bad quality stuff. Obviously their rent is going to be much higher. My DH said even last year the little underground malls in Madinah were pretty much dead and what there was, was really pricey but since the government closed the outdoor street market down many of the traders have got shops inside and the competition is really tough so they’re all looking to undercut each other. That’s the advantage of having 10 abaya shops in close vicinity, the disadvantage being if you want to find a particular shop again it makes it almost impossible lol. The same went for men’s clothing a lot of it was cheaper than Jeddah, some things were more pricey in Madinah though such as the Izars but that may be because they aren’t popular attire in Madinah as they are in Jeddah (many men in Jeddah go outside with Izar and shirt which would be unthinkable in most other Saudi cities). Another really nice thing they have in Madinah particularly are these really nice prayer mats that fit into their own bag, they have shops full of them and they only cost about £5. Most of the shoppers in there were Saudi, other gulf Arab or Irani, we came across quite a few other Brits in there though, nice to hear familiar accents.

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