Most women in Qatar and Middle East wear Abayas and they are mostly black coloured. For Muslims in this part of the world, an Abaya is a sign of respect, dignity, modesty and convenience as per Islamic teachings. The Abayas are long and covers the whole body from neck to wrists and to the feet as well. They are usually loose and worn by women in Middle East countries.
The history of Abayas comes from pre-Islamic era when it was won to protect the body from heat and sand as well as to avoid direct exposure to sun. They also helped to stay cool in summer and to protect from winds in winter. It was also considered a suitable attire to help women complete daily chorus without hindering movement of body. The Abayas are complemented with a headscarf called as a Shayla or Hijab. They are tied around the head so that no hair remains visible. Some women also wear a naqab to cover both head and the face.
Why are Abayas black?
The Abaya is almost always black in Qatar but sometimes you might also see some coloured Abayas as well. black, however, is the most preferred colour. The answer to why Abayas are always black gets connected to some legends –
Legend 1: The Merchant and the Poet
During the Abbasid Islamic era, a few decades after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away, a merchant brought different coloured headscarves to sell in Madiah from Persia (present day Iraq). He sold all the scarves except the black ones as women tend to like bright coloured scarves.
The merchant became worried and went to the famous port of the time, Darimi, and requested him to compose an advertisement for him to sell black scarves. The poet composed an advertisement in form of a poet, written like this:
“Tell the beauty in the black veil
What have you done to the pious worshipper?
He was rolling up his sleeves, getting ready for his prayers when you stopped him at the door of the mosque
You have stolen from him his religion and certainty and left him bewildered, without guidance…”
As per the poem, the abaya is known as a symbol of nobility and worn by upper class. Wearing it makes a women appear beautiful and still mysterious. Within no time, a gossip spread in Madinah about a women dressed in black who is beautiful and mysterious. When the merchant chanted this poem in market, women rushed to buy black scarves and within no time, all of his scarves were sold. From that day on, black became the colour of choice for woman in Arab countries and the tradition have not changed yet.
Legend 2: Black goats
Another legends ties the black colour of Abayas with black goats. It is believed that, during ancient times, women needed to create their own attires from available resources. Most often, they would find black goats handy and used their skin to make Abayas. And when clothes became available, black became their natural choice.
Apart from all these legends about black Abayas, there are also some reasons why women wear black Abayas in Qatar –
Reason 1: Convenience
Women prefer black colour Abayas also is because even if they stand in harsh or bright light, the outline of their body would not be visible through the abaya. So, it acts as a protective shield.
Reason 2: Local traditions
Black has always been the traditional colour of abaya for hundreds of years probably because of the above mentioned legends. Muslim women, therefore, have continued to wear black Abayas as per tradition. Qatari women consider it as a respect to their tradition and therefore consider it a virtue.
Reason 3: Blending In
Most women wear black Abaya in Qatar and you would hardly find any coloured abaya in Qatar. so, it becomes quite clear that black Abayas help women to blend in easily than other coloured abayas.
Reason 4: Convection
Though black colour absorbs heat more, it has also been revealed that they provide better convection, transfer of energy into or out of an object, of air inside a black abaya during a sunny time. That means a women wearing a black abaya would feel cooler than a man wearing a white thobe.
Reason 5: Always suitable colour
Most women throughout the world prefer black colour as it fits every occasion and every event. Therefore Qatari women prefer black abaya for the above reason and one than can never be ignored.
Want to know the dress code in Qatar? Read this article – http://qatarjust.com/the-dress-codes-for-women-and-men-in-doha-qatar/