Thursday, July 25, 2013

Know Your Thobe

 If you’re going to travel to Saudi Arabia… you better understand the do’s and don’ts  of fashion.  Things like… never wear gold chains (especially with Christian Crosses or Star’s of David) or show your knees, elbows, or tattoos, and if you’re a woman, (well, don’t go to Saudi Arabia if you’re a woman, but if you have to… ) prepare to cover yourself head to toe in a black gunny sack.
 But if you’re a man… you’d better know your Thobe!
 What’s a ThobeA Thobe (Arabic Thawb) is the long white gown that boys and men wear that hangs down to their ankles.  Actually, in this heat, they’re pretty comfy!
 You also must know your headscarves.  Commonly called a Keffiyeh (Arabic Shmagh) there are two types:  The red and white Saudi Arabian Keffiyeh or the black and white Jordanian.   Knowing the difference is helps get deeper into interacting within the diverse Saudi culture.
 Another thing to know so you won’t freak out when you see men packing machetes around on their belts… is the JambiaThe Jambia (Arabic Janbiya) is the small dagger when above the age of fourteen wear in their belts as an accessory.  There is also a Saifani, which is the Yemeni version, the hilt of the sword is important, usually made from rhinoceros horn, and shows the status of men in society.
 Other head gear includes the Taqiyah, which is the muslim prayer cap, and the agal, which is the head rope that holds the Keffiyeh.
No matter what’s going on… even after this fatal car crash along the highway (this was a common occurrence as these Saudi guys drove like drunk dare devils) knowing your Saudi fashion can help you stay cool and better operate in the culture.  In fact, I knew a couple of foreigners who eventually just started wearing Thobes to class.  The Saudi students loved it and those teachers were instantly adored.  So Good luck.  You’ll need it.  And Go Native!

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