The galabeya is a growing fashion phenomenon this Ramadan. Bringing contemporary and traditional galabeya designs together, the garment has obviously witnessed increasing popularity during this year's holy month. A galabeya is a loose, full-length gown with wide sleeves, often decorated with embroidery along its hems–collar, sleeves and skirt.
This year, women of all walks of life seem to be embracing the galabeya Ramadan fashion trend. Linked perhaps to the Ramadan spirit of tradition, galabeyas this year are being worn to iftars and sohours – as lounge wear and as an evening fashion statement.
In urban areas of Egypt, throughout the year, women tend to wear galabeyas at home – the airy garment is comfortable for housework and even as sleepwear. However, in the Egyptian countryside, it is common to find galabeyas as everyday clothing and in the Sinai, Bedouin women continue to don the traditional black galabeya they have worn for thousands of years. In fact, Sinai is the largest market for producing Bedouin garments decorated with hand woven cross stitching.
Ed-Dukkan is one of the largest Bedouin galabeya stores in Cairo. Filled with a wide range of galabeya designs for women, the store offers a variety of colors and patterns all made of pure Egyptian cotton and embroidered with colorful silk threads.
“We have our own production line which distinguishes our goods,” says Shaker Abdel-Latif, the manager of the store. Abdel-Latif explains that Ed-Dukkan produces only two pieces of the same design in order to guarantee exclusivity. According to Abdel-Latif, the design usually takes one month and half to finish.
Some of the galabeyas at Ed-Dukkan are handmade by Bedouin women from the Sinai who are well known for their proficiency in cross-stitch designs. These handmade designs are little more expensive than the machine made ones and prices range from LE 1,500 to LE 12,000, depending on the amount of embroidery and the fabric quality used in manufacturing the garment.
Ramadan is the high season for a number of products including galabeyas. Abdel-Latif explains that in years past, the majority of his Ramadan customers were women who wear the veil but that this year things are different – women are buying the galabeya as a fashion statement rather than a way in which to cover themselves modestly. “They are roomy and comfortable to wear and they go along with the fashionable style of Ramadan. Some women buy simple designs to wear them in houses when guests come while ornamental ones are used in evening outings,” notes Abdel-Latif.
Syria is another well-known manufacturer of highly ornamental fabrics among Arab countries. Syrian galabeyas are different from Bedouin designs. More colorful and more heavily embellished, the Syrian galabeya is popular in much of the Arab world. You can find Syrian galabeyas decorated with jewels, beads, pearls and coins along the collar hem, on the sleeves and sometimes on the back as well. Different kinds of fabrics like satin, cotton, silk and chiffon are used in manufacturing Syrian galabeyas.
Al-Rashed, the owner of Syrian galabeya store which carries the same name, says that the variety of fabrics, colors and embellishments is the reason behind the high demand on Syrian goods. "Their popularity of the Syrian galabeyas is also due to thier affordable prices, which range between LE 300 and LE 2000. The Syrian galabeyas attract a lot of clients," Al-Rashed explains.
“High-end customers ask for specific, tailor-made galabeya designs in lieu of eveningwear for events at five-star hotel Ramadan tents," adds Al-Rashed, "most of them are interested in luxury fabrics with heavy embroidery, which are suitable for elite party events.”
Throughout the year, the galabeya business relies mainly on Arab and foreign clients as Egyptians only tend to buy galabeyas during Ramadan. Al-Rashed explains that the demand for galabeyas increases in the summer because tourism flourishes during this season. Arabs are the majority of customers for Al-Rashed, as it is the traditional costume in many Middle Eastern countries. "Non-Arab foreigners appreciate more the handmade Bedouin designs and regard the embroidered fabric as a piece of art,” concludes Al-Rashed.
Address: Ramses Hilton Annex, Cairo, Egypt
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Al-Rashed Syrian store
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