Yemen is a large country and the traditional clothing here varies widely. Authentic Yemeni clothing can be simple and plain, and it could also have many colorful embroideries, intricate jewelry and elegant embellishments.
Yemen is a Muslim country; 98% of the population is Muslim. There are about 1,000 Christians and 50 Jews in Yemen. Within this population are three main ethic groups: the mountain people in North Yemen, the coastal people in South and West Yemen and the Bedouins. The traditional clothing varies across these groups.
Yemeni Male Clothing
Traditional attire worn by men include the dishdaha, or thawbs and futa skirts. The Dishdasha is an ankle-length, white dress with long sleeves that is very popular, especially in Sanaa and in the highlands. It’s usually worn with a jacket and a shirt, and although the plain white dishdashas are the most popular due to the heat, they can be found in all colors, simple or embroidered. They are made of wool or cotton and are considered formal attire.
The futa is a wrap-around skirt that men wear for informal occasions. Another version of the futa is the ma’wazz, which is worn more often by men in the mountain region of Yemen.
Men in Yemen often wear headdresses, and the most common amongst them are the turban and the alquaweq. A turban is made by winding a long piece of cloth around the head, and there are many styles and techniques to wrapping one. The alquaweq is made from cloth, straw or bamboo and is worn by older and wealthier Yemeni.
The jambiya is a ceremonial dagger worn by men, placed vertically at the center of a wide belt. It is curved with a medial ridge and usually has an ornate sheath with carvings, precious metals and ornaments.
Yemeni Female Clothing
Traditional female garments have changed over time. Women would often wear many different kinds of dresses and headscarves made of many brilliant colors, but over the past 20 years or so, the black abaya and the black veil have been seen more often. This dress is typically worn over other clothes. Black clothing is worn by many women in cities and large towns and in smaller villages, more colorful clothing and headscarves dominate.
The sana’ani is a brightly colored square-shaped cloth wrapped around the body and is one of the most popular pieces of clothing in all of Yemen. The zina, which translates to “beauty,” is a loose knee-length dress with long sleeves and a Vneck, worn with baggy pants and is often embellished.
The hijab, or headscarf, is worn almost universally by women in Yemen. Almomq is a type of head covering that is mostly black with red and white inclusions, made from silk or cotton. Married women add an additional head covering called amomq, which is embroidered with silver and coral colors.
If you were to visit Yemen today, you would see a splendid mix of authentic Yemeni clothing and modern clothing styles worn by many in the west. Visit the Shibam Yemeni Kitchen, the Yemeni restaurant where you’ll be sure to find Yemeni culture thriving.