Siwa Bridal Outfit (Egypt)

Siwa girls in their family's bridal outfits, late 20th century. Siwa girls in their family's bridal outfits, late 20th century.

Siwa is a large oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt, which has been occupied since at least the first millennium BC. Since the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries or earlier, the Swa or Ti-Swa people, a Berber group, have inhabited the oasis. Until the late twentieth century Siwa was one of the country’s most isolated settlements and over the centuries it developed a distinct culture.

Much of the traditional embroidery made in the Siwa Oasis is intended for the wedding outfit of young brides and thereafter worn as a marker of marital status by newly-wed women.

Until the last quarter of the twentieth century, a basic bridal outfit consisted of decorative trousers (srawelin khatem), various dresses, head and body coverings and shoes (zrabin). Most of the bridal garments and related items were made and embroidered by the girl’s mother and the girl herself, with the aid of other female family members. This work started when the girl was three to four years old, as it was common until comparatively recently for most girls to be married by the age of fourteen.

A bride’s trousseau was, and still is, provided by her parents and includes everyday and festive wear. Normally there are between 35 and 75 dresses, and in the case of wealthier families there could be over a hundred. During the period of the wedding a bride wears various outfits that also form part of her trousseau.

See also: Siwa bridal dresess; Siwa bridal footwear; Siwa head and body coverings; Siwa oasis embroidery.


  • ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM (1986). Égypte, Oasis d’Amun-Siwa, Geneva: Musée d’Ethnographie.
  • MEHREZ, Shahira and Gillian VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD (2016). 'Embroidery from Egypt,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 264-293, esp. 284-292.
  • VALE, Margaret Mary (2011). Sand and Silver: Jewellery, Costume and Life in the Siwa Oasis, York: York Publishing Services Ltd.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 25 June 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 12:34