Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Saudi Man's Bisht

This article is from an Arab News article (Nov. 7, 2012) by Rima Al-Mukhtar which explains about the history and details of the flowing formal robe for special occasions worn over the long dress that Saudi men wear.  Traditionally made of wool, today's modern versions are also made of lightweight sheer voile.

"Traditional and Modern: The Saudi Man's Bisht" by RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
Reprint from Arab News article posted November 7. 2012

Bisht worn by King Faisal as he shakes hands with US President Richard Nixon in 1974.

A bisht is a traditional Arabian long cloak men wear over their thobes. This cloak is usually made of wool and ranges in color from white, beige, and cream to the darker shades of brown, grey and black. The word bisht is derived from the Persian — to go on one’s back.

Originally the bisht was worn in winter by Bedouins. Now it’s only worn for special occasions like weddings, festivals, graduations and Eid.

The bisht has been the choice of formal wear for politicians, religious scholars and high-ranking individuals in Arabian Gulf countries, Iraq and countries north of Saudi Arabia. This traditional flowing cloak is meant to distinguish those who wear it. People say no cloth can provide the distinction of a hand-tailored bisht. This is why the art of bisht tailoring is a skill handed down from generation to generation.

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  1. Thanks for the great article. I have a story to add of which is probably more entertaining than factual. Often we see Arab men wearing the bisht with one arm covered by excess cloth pulled in and over it (perhaps a pic is necessary). It was said by some elders I sit with and who's company I very much appreciate that this move was used by some to carry their meat home (or any valuable). The reason was that they did not want members to see them carrying anything of value back to their homes from the market place.

    Well, whether it's true or not, the fact the story is spoken by some is a little insight into the colorful recent history of Arab men.

  2. I read the exact same artical a few days ago and found it mega interesting...and here you blog about. Very cool :-)

  3. You educate me. Thank you, my friend.

  4. I like tradition outfits! They look respectful and sacred!