27 August 2010

The Jellaba

Recently I wrote about the jellaba (gel-aa-ba) bzouia, but I then realized I never really talked about the jellaba in general.

The jellaba is the most prevalent traditional clothing item from Morocco. I guess in English you would call a jellaba a robe, but it's so much more than that. When I hear "robe" I think of something you would wear around the house, but the jellaba is so much more than that. Usually it has a loose-fitting body that goes down to about the ankles, with long sleeves that taper out and usually will reach the wrists or the fingertips. And, of course, 95% of jellabas will have a hood. Some people will use it as a coat that you put over your head instead of zipping. Some people will use it as a more traditional dress when they are feeling more pious. Some people will use a modern-fit version when they are dressing up to go to a wedding. It really all depends on where you are going, and what kind of impression you want to give.

A traditional, more formal, men's jellaba.

Detail of embroidery on a women's jellaba.

My new shorter-sleeved, just below the knee jellaba.

Often, volunteers will buy a jellaba during their service, either having it tailored and embroidered to their specifications - like my burgundy one above - or will just buy a pre-made one that fits them well. It's a very handy garment to wear during the summer months, especially if you buy one that has a light fabric. The dress-like quality of it keeps the air moving around your body, and the hood often serves as a great shield from the sun.

This article about women's jellabas observes a trend that I myself have noticed, about that fact that despite their traditional history, modern women are still buying and wearing jellabas. Sometimes, you just can't abandon a classic.

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