The Elaborate World of Arabic Jalabiya Dresses

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Walking into the Piano Bar at the Shangri La Muscat, I was a little bemused when a man walked over to the lady at the piano and started snapping his fingers at her.  She was playing a rocking rendition of Purple Rain, and it took her a minute to turn her face to him.  She was met with a halo of flash from the man’s camera.

“You could just have caught my attention by simply saying hello!” she said.  Or, waiting for the song to finish and for her to look up, I thought.

The steel magnolia in her voice was immediately recognisable.  A fellow American!  Looking over my shoulder, she immediately broke into a smile at my friend.  It turns out she knows my friend through mutual singer friends.  I can never get over what a small world it is.

Arabic Jelabiya Dress
The Piano Bar @shangrilamuscat perfect way to end the evening with a nightcap.

Pamela, the resident singer at the Shangri La Al Bandr Hotel for the next few months, came over to chat with us when she had her next break.  We were admiring her beautiful Arabic Jelabiya dress, when she invited us to go shopping with her during our stay.  Shopping?  Sure.  I never met a mall I did not like.

Arabic Jalabiya Dresses

Pamela introduced me to the colourful world of Arabic Jalabiya dresses for women.  The Jalabiya for women is similar to a caftan with a high neck and long sleeves.  The male version is a simple white and called a dishdasha in Oman.

What is a Jalabiya?

This blog post has a good rundown on the different types of  outfits women wear in the Arab countries.  Mostly, we as foreigners see the Abaya, the long black outer covering that Arab women wear outside the home.  Women can wear the elaborate Arabic Jalabiya dresses for women-only parties or for attending weddings.  I learned that women and men traditionally are gender segregated at Arab weddings so it would be an women-only event.

Shopping in Muscat Oman for Arabic Jalabiya Dresses

For foreigners living or visiting Arab countries, such as Pamela working in Oman or Kim Kardashian visiting Dubai, it is completely acceptable to wear the Jalabiya outside in public generally.  Pamela has a collection of gorgeous Jalabiyas for work because the outfit is both glamorous and modest.  Of course,  the Kardashians manage to make even the Jalabiya look a bit trashy wearing the top low-cut and hiking the hem up.  No surprise there.

Photo Gallery of Arabic Jalabiya Dresses

So here are some photos of the beautiful beadwork and detailing of the Arabic Jalabiya dresses.

Arabic Jalabiya Dress
This design reminds me of a patchwork pattern.
Arabic Jalabiya Dress
Such gorgeous beading
Traditional embroidery instead of glitter and beading.
Traditional embroidery instead of glitter and beading.
Sara Plaza Jalabiya Dress
Built-in jewellery!
Arabic Jalabiya Dress
These dresses are not meant to blend into the background!
Arabic Jalabiya Dress
Even the simpler patterns are quite elaborate.

jalabiya dress

Arabic Jalabiya dress

Arabic Jalabiya Dress

Avenues Mall in Muscat

The Avenues Mall in Muscat is considered the high-end mall in Muscat.  The largest mall in Oman, it contains many European, American and local stores.  For example, I saw Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, The Early Learning Centre and MAC cosmetics.  Note though that the largest mall in Oman is still nowhere near the size of malls in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Sara Plaza

We were shopping for Jalabiyas at the Sara Plaza store at the Avenues Mall. Sara Plaza seem to have stores throughout the Middle East though.

Arabic Jalabiya Dress
The runway show for Sara Plaza

Unlike Western stores, the outfits are mostly folded and behind a counter.  When you ask to see something, the sales person opens it carefully and holds it for your inspection.  You can flip through catalogs which show the outfits fully before you make your choice as well.  Although an old-fashioned type of service, the customer gets a lot of attention this way.

Arabic Jalabiya Dress

The one downside of this process though?  Having to tell the salesman your size.  On the other hand, these caftans are voluminous because they should be worn loose.  Even then, you would need a much smaller size than you would in a Western sized outfit.  Many dresses have ties that can cinch in the waist, sleeves etc so they are not completely shapeless.

Arabic Jalabiya Dress

Lulu Hypermarket

We also went to Lulu Hypermarket, a megastore in the Middle East which is similar to an American Target or Walmart.  I was able to buy cheap gifts for the kids and their cousins at Lulu. I had never heard of Lulu before Pamela took me to one,  They are a massive operation with many stores in the Middle East and Asia.  No doubt they will make their way to Europe eventually.

Lulu Hypermarket Avenue Mall
Plastic gold bracelets – all the bling you could want!

Visiting Avenues Mall in Muscat

A chance meeting of mutual friends in an exotic location provided an interesting shopping experience which was completely different from our visit to the Muttrah Souk.

We took the Shangri La hotel shuttle to the Avenues Mall.  The Mall is located in Muscat proper on Avenue Qaboos Street.  After visiting the Avenues Mall, we took a taxi to the Chedi Hotel Muscat and the charge was the standard 5 Omani Rial for fares within the city.


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11 thoughts on “The Elaborate World of Arabic Jalabiya Dresses”

  1. Thanks for sharing such a great post. Small world. Pam-e and I have been friends for years and she is a wonderful person. Best of luck in your travels!

  2. Hello everyone! Thank you so much for theese great comments mentioning my name. The dresses are Gorgeous, and the come in different proportion sizes, I always get the longer length because I am on the taller side, but.they come in all sizes, when it comes to me playing piano at the Shangri-la hotel and Resort in Oman, I am on an elevated stage with the guest below me, it works for me to have a longer dress at least to the knees. And the Elegance of theese dresses are Amazing! I am an entertainer, but I have found that I will where amazing things like this anytime. The special occasion is life! Ha-ha-ha! Enjoy!

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