Abaya, usually called Balto in Yemen, is a simple, loose over-garment, a robe-like dress, worn by women in North African and Arabian Peninsula ( Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Yemen).
It is easily pointed out in the streets of Sana’a that women wear the black garment with niqab and/or Khimar. I remember my first time wearing a niqab. I was frighten inside of myself. I felt that my freedom has taken away. After few minuets, I was fine and habituated to it. For foreigners women, it is no need to wear the niqab at all!
In the markets (Souk), you will find abaya with very good price and you can bargain. However, in the fancy shops, the quality will be different as well as the price. The owners import Abaya from the Gulf. Style and material is various. It usually comes with one color, BLACK! However, nowadays you will find abaya with embroidery accented with color stone at end sleeves and necklines. No Kidding! In Dubai, there is a abaya fashion show. Sana’ani ladies have a great sense of fashion. The color of the handbag must match with the shoes. Moreover, you rarely see women wearing abaya with a tennis shoes.
I remember my Yemeni-Kenyan friend told me (She is Yemeni and born in Kenya) that when she first moved to Yemen, she wore her abaya with a tennis shoes. She was waiting for bus one day and someone stop by her and took a photo of her shoes and her abaya.
Due to the hot summer in Sana’a, it is better to wear something in light fabric. I usually wear a Khimar over a long sleeves shirt since it covers my butt.
- crepe (polyester crepe & satin crepe)
- georgette (polyester georgette)
- cotton (cotton/polyester blend georgette)
Some fabrics are great for spring and summer or some are for all-weather. There are some abaya made out of heavy fabric for winter. Polyester and georgette is great for spring and summer. However, some abaya fabric is blend. So, pick the one you feel comfortable with. You can wear a t-shirt or a tank inside.