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Thawb (Arabic: ثَوْب‎ "garment"), also spelled thobe or tobe and known by various other names in different regions, is an ankle-length robe, usually with long sleeves. It is commonly worn in the Arabian Peninsula، the Middle East, North Africa, and other neighbouring Arab countries, and some countries in East and West Africa. An izaar is typically worn underneath.


The word thawb (ثَوْب) is the Arabic word for "garment". It is also romanized as thobe or thaub.

Prevalence and regional differences in names and use by gender[edit]

Middle East and North Africa[edit]

The thawb is commonly worn by women in the Arabian Peninsula. It is normally made of cotton, but heavier materials such as sheep's wool can also be used, especially in colder climates in Iraq and Syria.[1] The style of the thawb varies slightly among the various regions in the area. The sleeves and the collar can be stiffened to give a more formal appearance. Other names may be used for this garment. In Iraq, Kuwait, the Levant, and Oman, dishdashah is the most common word for the garment; in the United Arab Emirates and the Maghreb, the word kandura is used. The neck also tends to be more open than in its Saudi counterpart and, along with the breast pocket, is often embroidered. It might also lack buttons altogether.


In Sudan, the term tobe is used to refer to women's outer garments.[2] In her book Khartoum at night: Fashion and body politics in imperial Sudan,[3] cultural historian Marie Grace Brown explained: "Meaning “bolt of cloth,” a tobe is a rectangular length of fabric, generally two meters wide and four to seven meters long. It is worn as an outer wrapper whenever women are outside their homes or in the company of unrelated males. The tobe’s origins date back to the late eighteenth century when prosperous merchants in Darfur clothed their wives and daughters in large swaths of fine imported linen, muslin, and silk as a sign of their wealth and prestige."[4] In the context of urban culture in Sudan since the 1930s, new and often colourful styles of tobes became fashionable, as Sudanese women "expressed their growing opportunities and desires through fashion."[5]


The traditional Palestinian woman's long tunic is also called thawb. This style originated in the early 19th century and is richly embroidered, with different colours and patterns signifying various aspects of the wearer's social position.[6] Since the Nakba, or 1948 Palestinian exodus, the thawb has also come to represent Palestinian political identity.[6]

Name variations[edit]

Region/country Language Main
Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, Palestine Hejazi Arabic, Najdi Arabic, Bahraini Arabic, Palestinian Arabic Thawb/Thōb (ثوب)
Levant, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Ahwaz Levantine Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic, Omani Arabic, Kuwaiti Arabic, Ahwazi Arabic Dishdāshah (دِشْدَاشَة)
United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya Emirati Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Algerian Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, Libyan Arabic Kandūrah (كَنْدُورَة)/Gandūrah (قَنْدُورَة)

Other occasions[edit]

Sudanese women in colourful tobes at a market in Darfur, West Sudan

A thawb is sometimes worn with a bisht (بِشْت), also known in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula as a mishlah (مِشْلَح) or ʿabāʾ (عَبَاء), meaning 'cloak'. It is usually worn in ceremonial occasions or by officials. A bisht is usually worn by religious clergy, but can also be worn in weddings, Eids, and funerals. It may indicate a status of wealth and royalty, or sometimes a religious position. It was originally manufactured in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, and it is usually worn in Arabian peninsula, Jordan, Syria, and parts of southern Iraq.

According to H. R. P. Dickson,[7] Bedouin women would mount a brightly coloured thawb on a pole in front of a tent in order to welcome home a traveller or an important person coming to visit.[2]

Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Michigan and the first Palestinian-American woman elected to that body, wore a thawb to her swearing-in ceremony on January 3, 2019.[8] This inspired a number of Palestinian and Palestinian-American women to share pictures on social media with the hashtag #TweetYourThobe.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. Jirousek, Charlotte (2004). "Islamic Clothing". Art, Design, and Visual Thinking. Charlotte Jirousek. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Campbell, Kay Hardy; Corman, Leela (March–April 2016). "The Gown That Steals Your Heart". Aramco World. 67 (2): 24–25.
  3. Brown, Marie Grace (2017). Khartoum at night fashion and body politics in imperial Sudan. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-1-5036-0152-9. OCLC 1113341178.
  4. Stanford University Press. "Start reading Khartoum at Night | Marie Grace Brown". Retrieved 2021-06-29.
  5. "'Khartoum at Night' looks at Sudanese history through fashion". University of Kansas Department of History. University of Kansas. August 9, 2017. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2019. expressed their growing opportunities and desires through fashion.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Debre, Isabel (February 12, 2019). "Iconic Palestinian robe fashions a new political symbol". AP News. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  7. Dickson, H.R.P. (2015). The Arab of the desert : a glimpse into Badawin life in Kuwait and Sau'di Arabia. New York, NY: Routledge. OCLC 919302946.
  8. Jennings, Rebecca (January 4, 2018). "Rashida Tlaib's thobe and Ilhan Omar's hijab are making congressional history". Vox.
  9. Zrarick, Karen (January 3, 2018). "As Rashida Tlaib Is Sworn In, Palestinian-Americans Respond With #TweetYourThobe". The New York Times.

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