Hijab can refer to the practice of modest dress by Muslim women or the garments used to cover the head, neck and chest worn by Muslim women. Hijab styles vary according to culture, religious commitment and lifestyle. The Arabic-speaking world is culturally and economically diverse, and this is reflected in its fashions. Some hijab styles worn in the Arabic-speaking world are traditional, but hijab and high fashion have combined to create ever-evolving styles.
Traditional Garments of the Arabian Peninsula
Arab Muslim women often wear an oblong scarf called a shayla or milfeh. These may be embroidered to match an abaya, a garment extending from the collarbone to the ankles, which Arab Muslim women wear in public or when around nonrelated men. When designed to match the abaya, the oblong scarves are made of a black woven material, often silk or synthetic material made to approximate silk. The khimar or buknuk is a covering that resembles a short hooded cape, sewn closed from the chin down. These might be plain or embroidered with gold thread.
Traditional Garments of North Africa
The cultures of Egypt and the Maghreb feature a blend of Arab influences with native Berber cultures, and this shows in their dress. Tuareg women wear blue garments that cover the entire body, Ouled Nail women wear voluminous, brightly colored head coverings and Egyptian women wear scarves decorated with pompoms. Throughout the Arabic-speaking world, but especially in the Maghreb, women may decorate clothing with coins. Women working outside the home may wear bright-colored square headscarves, tied at the back of the head.
Traditional Garments of the Levant
The countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine are home to Bedouin Arabs, Kurds and the Druze, an esoteric group related to Isma'ili Shi'a Muslims. Druze, Kurdish women and some Sunni Muslim women in Syria, Jordan and Palestine wear white headscarves. Conservative Sunni Muslim women in Syria, Jordan and Palestine may wear headscarves large enough to extend to the knees. Traditionally, hats and other supporting accessories gave white silk headscarves height and shape. Women of the Levant decorated their head coverings with coins, cross-stitch embroidery and dyed garments in rich shades of red, blue, gold and green.
Hijab Meets Dubai Fashion Week
The economic boom of the Gulf Arab states gave rise to women with discretionary income and fashion sense. Hijab is now high fashion, and magazines in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates display the latest styles and tutorials on elaborate techniques. Scarves now come in a variety of colors, including bold patterns designed to accent a neutral colored scarf, may be embellished with gathers or shaped to provide volume.