Little​ black dress?


Women in Iraq 1980s 


I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at Silent. Silence. Silenced exhibit by artists Christine Palamidessi last November in Boston. The Abaya and veil are seen by Western society as a cause for women’s silence and lack of freedom of expression in Arab culture. I tried my best to fill the cultural gap between them and us and tried to explain the bad and good aspects of the abaya. I talked briefly about Abaya, its history and its connection to Arab culture, not Islam.  I will write a series about all the questions addressed to me in that event. The first question of the audience was “Women wear the black abaya but why black?”. It was interesting because there is not one truth behind the black color.


Black is the master of colors undisputed. It is suitable for anyone and any occasion. It has taken over all the international fashion houses. All fashion shows present black mostly in every show. As Christian Dior said ” Black is the most slimming of all Colors. It is the most flattering. You can wear black at any Time. You can wear it at any age. You can wear it for almost any occasion. I could write a book about black.” The black is a dominant color for outwear women attire in most of the Arab world. The history behind the black Abaya is not entirely clear. But I would like to share with you some of the reasons Which I know or have known through my research on this subject. I think some of them are similar in all cultures.

  • “The black light is that which cannot itself be seen because it is the cause of seeing; it cannot be an object since it is absolute Subject.” Henry Corbin, the author of  The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism.  Black is the divine color in Sufism.
  • The black color makes a shade and therefore cooler temperature. This why the Bedouin in the Arabian Peninsula wore dark color clothe and mostly black. Even their tents were in dark tone primarily black.
  • Abaya was white embroidered, but it turned black after the Siege of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. The Women grieved for their burned city.
  • In Chinese philosophy, the symbol of yin and yang, the White symbolizes masculinity, and black symbolizes femininity. Yin and Yang together express harmony and balance. We can see this harmony in “Hajj” the Islamic the pilgrim. Men wear white and women black.
  • In the ancient Egyptians, black was the color of fertility.  Perhaps that’s why women in the East wear black.
  • For the straightforward reason that when Abaya was made a thousand years ago or more there were not many dyes for clothing at that time before the industrial revolutions. For this, the clothes were in natural colors. Then people used to black abaya and became black is the color of abaya official.


Women from Hail in Saudi Arabia, February – March 1914

Currently black is not the only color of the abaya. I do not think anyone now wears black because of spiritual reason or philosophy. People may be used to the black like in Saudi Arabia or just because they like the color. The Abaya now comes in different colors because every woman wants to be different. Individualism and uniqueness have become a priority for everyone in the whole world.

#women #saudiArabia #culture #black


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s