We should mention that one of the main features of Yemeni traditional clothing is the great diversity. How the Yemenis dress depends mainly on two aspects: the region from where they come and the occasion.
Male traditional attire
Thoob (also called “thawb”) is a loose ankle-length garment with long sleeves. Traditional Yemeni thoobs are white, beige or brown. Light colors and natural fabrics are used to cope with the hot sun. Thoobs are mostly used by tribal people from the North of the country. This garment is rather formal.
Futa is a wrap-around male skirt. It is an informal type of clothing. Futa is also used mostly by tribal people from the North. Futa was wide and short from the front to help the man do his duties such as climb mountains, cut trees, run, and work on a farm easily. Wearing the futa continued until after unification in northern and southern provinces except Aden, where it developed into a smaller and narrower style called the makatab, a piece of cloth wrapped from the waist to the knee. The makatab spread to coastal areas such as Tihamah and Aden where the weather is hot.
Ma’wazz is another variant of futa. It can be worn at the formal occasions, like weddings etc. Futa and ma’wazz are usually handmade. They can be of any color and pattern (striped, checkered and so on). These garments are rather convenient, that’s why they are popular among Yemeni men.
Shawls Many men wear shawls wrapped around their heads or about the shoulders (a meshedda – though the word shawl is more commonly used). There are specific ways of wrapping it according to specific regions. And on top of the dress is worn a black or dark blue jacket and the famous Yemeni dagger, the jambiyya.
The jambiyya is the curved knife tucked behind a wide ornamental belt. Every Yemeni tribesman has at least one and wears it often. Although the jambiya serves many purposes, it is mainly a ceremonial dagger. On occasions such as weddings, they are used when dancing.
Men in Yemen mostly wear headgears. There are plenty of different headdresses used in this country. The most popular and widespread are the turban and the alqaweq.
Turbans are headdresses made by simple winding a long piece of cloth around the head (at least, it sounds simple – this process is not so easy for beginners). There are many styles of wearing the turban, as well as many variations of fabrics used.
Female traditional garments
Abaya This black dress is also called balto in Yemen and is worn on top of other clothes. Especially in the cities and larger towns, women wear mostly black. In the villages, other dresses with vibrant headscarves dominate.
Sitara It means both veil and curtain and is basically a large piece of cloth wrapped around the head and body. It is worn by old women especially in Sana’a and its surroundings. This piece of cloth is also called “Al-Masoon”.
Zina It is also very widespread in Yemen. Zina is much alike to the Western-style dress of 1940’s – 50’s. It is a loose knee-length or bellow-the-knee length dress with long sleeves and V-neck. Zina is mostly worn with baggy trousers.
Headgears Most women in Yemen also cover their heads in different ways.
Hijab This headscarf is thought to be important in protecting the dignity of the women.
Al-Momq Another obligatory part of Sana’ani dress is a separate cloth that covers the head, and is mostly black with red and white inclusions.
Lithma Very few women show their faces on the streets. That is why a veil that is also commonly called a burqa is used to cover the face.