Sudan is a large African country with strong Islamic and Christian traditions. Religions and beliefs of local people have a great influence on the national clothing of Sudan. As climate conditions do. Those are the reasons for Sudanese people to wear loose-fitting long attires which cover most of the body. These dresses and robes are made of light natural fabrics. Sudanese people also cover their heads: women with scarves and men with turbans. Headgears serve both for religious purposes and for protection from the sun. Western-style dresses are also used in Sudan, but they're rarer than traditional ones.
Sudanese bridal outfit
Men's traditional attire. It consists of a long, loose-fitting white or pastel-colored robe (called "jalabiya"), a headdress (a skullcap or a turban), and shoes. Jalabiya is ankle-length collarless robe with long sleeves. Mostly it is light-colored, but sometimes it can be brown as well. Light colors help to reduce heat from the sun; long sleeves and hem protect skin from sun and sand; loose-fitting design helps skin to breath and reduces sweating.
Male national costume: jalabiya, scarf and skullcap
Sudanese man in traditional garment - full set
Today men are allowed to wear Western-style costumes to work. But mostly they do so in big cities. They use traditional attires out of work.
Women's traditional attire. The national costume of Sudanese women is called "toob" ("thobe", "thawb", "toub" etc.). It is a long wrap-around cloth worn on top of a shirt and skirt/trousers. It covers the body entirely. It can be made from cotton, satin, polyester, jersey, denim and other fabrics. A thawb can be of any color, can have various patterns on fabric. A thawb can be very colorful and beautiful. Though, elder women prefer white thawbs, and youth mostly wears multicolor toobs, often with accessories. Expensive thawbs often are embellished with embroidery, stitch-work, rhinestones and other decorative elements.
Female national costume: thawb and underclothes
Traditional clothing is very important for Sudanese women. It shows the status, social class, belonging to a clan or tribe and gender. Girls wear their first thawb at the age of 12. A woman should have at least several toobs for different occasions: shopping, work, visiting friends, wedding etc.
Due to Islamic tradition, women cover their body with a thawb and other clothing. They leave only feet, palms (or sometimes arms to the elbow) and face uncovered. Undershirts and underskirts / underpants prevent the exposure of bare body if a thawb falls or is carelessly worn. It is rather hard to keep the wrap-around cloth always in place.
Sudanese traditional clothing
There are several explanations of Sudanese women for wearing the traditional dress: some of them try to keep clothing traditions and respect the national costume; others consider thawb to be very convenient and nice-looking, and some women just want to divert sexual gazes from men using a large wrap-around cloth. But it doesn't matter why people of Sudan continue to wear their national costumes in day-to-day life. It is important that they don't forget their traditions and don't give up using the same garments which their ancestors used to wear.
Male and female attire of Sudan