1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arab Dress (Clothing). Personal Appearance and Qualities of the Arabs.

(Part 33)


(33) Arab Dress (Clothing). Personal Appearance and Qualities of the Arabs.

Arab Dress (Clothing)

In dress much variety prevails. The loose cotton drawers, girded at the waist, which in hot climates do duty for rousers, are not often worn, even by the upper classes, in Nejd or Yemamah, where a kind of silk dressing-gown is thrown over the long shirt; frequently, too, a brown or black cloak distinguishes the wealthier citizen; his head-dress is in its character the same as that of the Bedouins-namely, a handkerchief fastened round the head by a band-only of better materials. But in Hejaz, Yemen, and Oman, turbans are by no means uncommon; the ordinary colours is white; they are worn over one or more skull caps-sometimes fifteen-till the head is rather burdened than protected. Trousers also form part of the dress in the two former of these districts; and a voluminous sash, in which a dagger or an inkstand is stuck, is wrapped round the waist. Meanwhile the poorer folk and the villagers often content themselves with a broad piece of cloth round the loins, and another across the shoulders. In Oman’s trousers are rare, but over the shirt a long gown, of peculiar and somewhat close-fitting, cut, dyed yellow, is often worn. The women in these provinces commonly put on loose drawers, and some add veils to their head-dresses; they are fond of ornaments (gold and silver), and over-charge themselves with them; their hair is generally arranged in a long plait hanging down behind. All men allow their beards, whiskers, and moustaches full growth, though none of these are much to speak of, particularly among the Arabs of the south, who are a thin-haired race. Most shave their heads, and indeed all, strictly speaking, ought by Mahometan custom to do so; but many peasants especially, Bedouins, and the like, neglect it. An Arab seldom or never dyes his hair. Sandals are worn more often than shoes, but the heat of the ground in the daytime allows none except the very poorest to go wholly barefoot. Lastly, though no class or occupation lays claim to any particular style or article of dress, writers, imams, and others connected with the service of the mosques, generally affect greater amplitude and less variety of colour in their turbans and vestments than other people.

Personal Appearance and Qualities of the Arabs

In person the Arabs are a remarkably handsome race, -- tall, lithe, well-formed, dark-eyed, and dark-haired. Deformed individuals of dwarfs are rare among them; nor, except leprosy, of which frequent instances may be met with throughout the peninsula, does any disease seem to be hereditary among them. The frequently of ophthalmia, though not in the virulent Egyptian form, is evidently attributable to the nature of the soil and the climate. They are scrupulously clean in their persons, adding to the prescribed ablutions of the Mahometan code frequent supererogatory washings of their own; and take special care of their teeth, which are generally fine; though tooth ache is by no means unknown in Arabia. Simple and abstemious in their habits, they often reach an extreme yet healthy old age; nor is it common among them for the faculties of the mind to give way sooner than those of the body. To sum up, physically and morally they yield to few races, if any, of mankind; mentally, they surpass most, and are only kept back in the march of common progress by the remarkable defect of organizing power and incapacity for combined action which they share with many other nations of the east, and some, it would seem, of the West also. Lax and imperfect as are their forms of government, it is with in impatience that even these are borne; and we have already seen that of the four caliphs who alone reigned-if reign theirs could be called –in Arabia proper, three died a violent death; and of the Wahhabee princes, the most genuine representatives in later times of pure Arab rule, almost all have met the same fate.

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