Egyptian Hanmde Galabeya (Galabia)

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The Bedouin culture has a long history of beautiful costumes, textiles and Jewelry. The Bedouin costume has not changed in a thousand years, and the Bedouins today dresse in every particular as they did in the tenth century.

In Egypt's Western Desert, there are some oasis's that have a distinctive traditional costume style. The loose, unencumbered dresse of the Bedouin woman is well suited to her nomadic life for it requires little maintenance. Although black is the dominating Bedouin color, women of some of the tribes dresse in blue. The garment is long and ample. The armholes are deep to permit a wide sleeve. The dresse opens to the waist and is usually unbelted. When a belt is worn it is tied around the hips and serves to support the figure as well as to adjust the length of the garment.

Traditionally these dresses are made of cotton, and are heavily embroidered in cotton cross stitch. Patterns are usually geometric, arranged in large solidly embroidered areas around the chest, sleeves and lower skirt areas of the garment. The embroidery is of a bright contrasting color, usually red or yellow. Blue dresses are embroidered in black or red. Choices in fabric reveal social status, as wealthy people buy imported fabrics and silk threads for embroidery. While choices in decoration may reveal marital status (weather the women is married, unmarried, or widowed), age, religion, or even the number of children in the family.

These Bedouin dresses are usually worn with black head veils and shawls, often with multicolored cross stitch embroidery down their centre panel, and with face masks "burqas" usually made of silk with a variety of decorative elements - embroidery, tassels, chains, amber, beads, amulets, and shells are common.

There are everyday dresses , and special occasion and wedding dresses. The bride usually buys the most luxurious material she can afford and if she has a choice she will pick a shiny, highly ornamental fabric such as brocade, cut velvet, or printed silk. The style of the dress is very simple and it has long sleeves. It may be caught in at the waist with a silver, gold, leather or folded fabric belt. The wedding dress is usually black in color, with rich silk embroidery of variegated colors around the neck and the front part of the dress.

There has been a major revival in the creation of Bedouin costumes and embroideries since the late 1980s, and it is now possible to buy beautifully made contemporary dresses, trousers and shawls through retail outlets in Cairo.


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