“Thawb” itself is just an Arabic word for “garment” but it is traditionally used for Arabian men’s clothing. Sometimes it is spelled thaub, but most common in the USA is thobe. In a more global sense, the thobe is a form of tunic that is very long and while there is some debate on the correct length of a thawb the consensus view is that it should rest near the ankles when standing.
Although the thawb is most common across the Arabian Peninsula, upwards into Iraq and other Arab countries, it has migrated with Islam across much of Africa. This has led to African variations of the thobe over the centuries. Traditionally the thobe is made of cotton, but it can be made of wool and is commonly modified to suit colder climates. There are slight variations in the style of thawb from one country to another, sleeves are patterned, buttoned or slit in some areas which collars may be left open, have a cut out (similar to a clerical collar) or even have a tassel to show the local culture.
In places like Oman and greater Syria the thobe is referred to as a dishdasha while it is called a kandura in the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi). Across North Africa, especially in Morocco, the sleeves are shortened to T-shirt length with a more open collar with embroidered edges. This style has been re-adopted by Saudis as a sort of house dress. In Morocco, this short-sleeved version is called a gandora.
The term thawb does often cause gender confusion when shopping in Arab countries as a foreigner since “thawb” refers to a traditional Palestinian woman’s garment. This would be the long tunic, oversized and embroidered across the front with a flowing, billowing back. This is also called a Khaleeji dress. Therefore, when shopping in the area it is prudent to ask for a “men’s thobe” specifically. .
Hopefully you will find a style that you need here in our Muslim American online store and you won’t need to worry about shopping overseas for something you can get right here at home in the USA. Please visit our store in Charlotte, NC for more selections and great in-store discounts! .