Much like many women in Bahrain and the GCC, the women in my family are obsessed with the “jalabiya” – a long, loose and often-ornamented dress worn indoors (for those who don’t know). You will, without doubt, hear a compliment or two during our chaotic Thursday night gatherings about one of the women’s “jalabiya.”

“Alllaaaaah,” one woman would say to another, normally with widened-eyes and an astonished smile, “What great jalabiya! Where did you get it tailored?”

And so the conversation would begin… who’s the newest tailor, what’s the newest design… from the fabric store all the way to the customized end product… none of which is of interest to us, the young generation of 20-something – save a few. Heh!

This got me thinking about the industry of long dresses here in Bahrain and the GCC. Many of the stores are small and local. If you drive by Muharraq, in any of its narrow old streets, you will undoubtedly spot a handful of Bahraini-owned, Indian-run stores in a single neighborhood. The bulk of the daily “jalabiyat” for women come from those places.

There are, however, several high end stores that make these dresses at a higher price, and sometimes heavier designs. Well-established designer “Kubra Al-Qaseer” has international fame now for her traditional dresses. “Yashmak” has also been in business for quite some time with many branches in Bahrain. In Seef Mall there is also “Al Khozami.” In Muharraq, a relatively-new place called “Daan” sells higher-end jalabiyat along their flower and chocolate division. And if you take a stroll in City Centre’s third floor you’ll see Caftari Haute Couture with chic colorful dress, and price tags that features high three-digit each.


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