Game Changers The Folklore Issue

Yara Ayoob: Making abayat al-ras appealing to the youth

The traditional Khaleeji garment is a focal point in this content maker's photoshoots.


By Sekka Team

Farasha. Image: Courtesy of Yara Ayoob.

This article is part of the Young Guardians of Our Folklore Series.

Amongst her 61.2 thousand followers on Instagram, Yara Ayoob has become known as the go-to person for all things brows-related, especially after  the 24-year-old content creator and makeup artist became Benefit Middle East’s Regional Brow Artist and spokesperson in 2019. But what has also made her stand out amongst the virtual crowdsaside from  her ability to acheive the perfect brows is her commitment to representing Bahraini, and wider Khaleeji culture, by wearing abayat al-ras in  many of the quirky photoshoots that she regularly holds to produce beauty (and non-beauty) related social media content.

Gloob. Image: Courtesy of Yara Ayoob.
Yumma. Image: Courtesy of Yara Ayoob.
Wrood . Image: Courtesy of Yara Ayoob.

Abayat al-ras is a loose-fitting black cloak  that women across the Gulf region have worn for centuries. What distinguishes it in style from the black cloak, or abaya, that is more commonly worn by Khaleeji women today is that abayat al-ras —as its name in Arabic suggests—rests on the head rather than on the shoulders. In addition, it is usually worn by older generations of Gulf women, and is noticeably less popular amongst young women who opt for more fashion-forward abayat that rest on the shoulders, or none at all. 

Yara feels differently, however. For this Bahraini millennial, who grew up seeing many of the elders of her family wearing it,abayat al-ras, “Symbolizes elegance, history, culture and warmth. I always feel a sense of warmth whenever I wear it.” 

“I love my abayat al-ras because it belongs to my grandmother and it always transports me to a different era. It makes me feel closer to my roots and my country,” says the young content creator, who lives in the UAE.  “I truly believe that it is a symbolic piece of our traditions that we should celebrate and keep for future generations to come.” 

Desert Scarecrow. Image: Courtesy of Yara Ayoob.
Um Nufaish. Image: Courtesy of Yara Ayoob.

Through her photographs, which she takes by herself and with the help of her siblings, Yara combines her love for her culture with more modern aspects of her everyday life, from colorful makeup to trendy accessories to foods that she enjoys . “My love for my culture, art and makeup are definitely what drive me to be more creative and to push myself to be as extravagant as I can with every post,” she says when we ask her where she derives her inspiration for her photoshoots from. 

As she takes us through her photographs and photoshoots, she notes that it was her photograph Um Nufaish, which she took in 2018 was what encouraged Yara “to think outside the box and celebrate my abayat al-ras more,” because it received positive reactions from her family, friends and numerous others. Thus, one of her main goals today is to “normalize wearing it [abayat al-ras] out more”  as a way to preserve the tradition that so many Khaleeji women before have maintained across time, and to popularize it amongst the youth, as well as to generally “encourage people to celebrate their culture more.”

To find out more about Yara Ayoob, visit her Instagram page

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