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The Jalabiya Tales

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Bahraini women sharing stories of their tradition

By Raji Unnikrishnan

As the crescent moon heralded the arrival of Eid al-Fitr, Bahrainis anticipated the joyous festivities marking the end of Ramadan. Amidst the continuing celebrations, one tradition stands out as a symbol of cultural heritage and elegance: the jalabiya. Worn with pride and adorned with intricate embroidery, the jalabiya holds a special place in the hearts of Bahraini women, serving as a canvas for their personal stories and cherished memories.

In Bahraini culture, the jalabiya is more than just a garment; it is a reflection of tradition, identity, and heritage. Passed down through generations, each jalabiya carries with it a unique tale, weaving together threads of family history and cultural significance.

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For women in Bahrain, the jalabiya holds a special allure during the Ramadan season, where gatherings such as gahbgas and iftars provide the perfect opportunity to showcase their finest attire.

In this Eid special feature, Bahrain This Week reached out into the world of jalabiya tales, as Bahraini women graciously shared their personal anecdotes and reflections on this timeless tradition.

Ahlam Janahi

“I think for most of us (women), our jalabiya collection is a testament to Bahrain’s rich culture and tradition,” said Bahrain Businesswomen Society president Ahlam Janahi.
“Each piece tells a story of craftsmanship and creativity, reflecting the diversity and beauty of our society. Some of them are very old, and I do have some treasured pieces like that, some with rich embroidery done by Indian artisans.”

Dr Kameela Almajed

The intricately designed with beautiful embroidered jalabiyas are, beyond a fashion statement, represent Bahraini craftsmanship, said General Surgery, Laparoscopic and Breast Surgery expert Dr Kameela Almajed.

“The traditional Jalabiyah holds a special place in Bahraini culture, particularly among women,” said the Bahraini medic.

“This elegant garment reflects the rich heritage and unique identity of Bahrain, often worn during special occasions and gatherings. The jalabiyah is intricately designed with beautifully embroidery, vibrant colours, and luxurious fabrics, showcasing the craftsmanship and attention to detail that is characteristic of Bahraini fashion. It exudes grace and sophistication, embodying the cultural values and traditions of the country. For Bahraini girls and women, wearing the jalabiyah is not just a fashion statement, but a way to honour their heritage and celebrate their roots with pride and elegance.”

Hana Al Saffar

For Hana Al Saffar, jalabiyas add to the charm and piety of the holy month and ensuing festivities.
“The jalabiya embodies elegance and grace, making it the perfect attire for Ramadan gatherings,” said the former Labour Market Regulatory Authority official.
“It’s a celebration of femininity and tradition, allowing us to honour our heritage with pride. I love the way we bring out our jalabiyas during Ramadan—it is more an emotion or pride and joy than just a piece of dress. Yes, I do have some treasured jalabiyas from my mother.”

Ayisha Ebrahim

Modern and fashionable Ayisha Ebrahim reflected that jalabiyas are her “top choice” for events and occasions.

“Despite considering myself fashionable and modern, I have a several Jalabiyas that I really treasure and prefer wearing them for occasions like Ramadan and Henna parties,” said the Bahrain Chamber senior media specialist.

“I believe that the traditional Jalabiya is unique in design and colors,and  remain my top choice for such events.”

Dr Lulwa Budalamah

National Communications Centre official Dr Lulwa Budalamah also echoed the view of jalabiya symbolising the Bahraini identity.

“The jalabiya which is a women’s dress embroidered with golden threads is called the “Thob Alnashil,” she cited. “I am very happy because I see girls of different ages wearing jalabiyas on various occasions.

I have jalabiyas that I treasure and are close to my heart, and one which I received as a gift from a member of the royal family. I do not have a daughter, but I will gift it to my daughter-in-law or granddaughter in the future, inshallah.”

 As Bahrain celebrates, its people cherish the traditions that unite them and honour the legacy of their ancestors. The jalabiya serves as a timeless reminder of the nation’s shared heritage, bridging the past with the present and inspiring future generations to embrace their cultural identity with pride. In the fabric of Bahraini culture, the jalabiya remains a vibrant thread, woven with love, memories, and the enduring spirit of tradition. Yes, the stories of lovely jalabiyas continue to enrich lives and serve as a testament to the beauty of the kingdom’s cultural heritage. Eid Mubarak!

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