The elaborate clothing of a Rashaida woman in instantly recognisable, the rich and intricate silver embroidery of the veils and the bold black and coloured embroidered dresses are testimony to many hours of highly skilled artistry.
The richness of the Rashaida clothing is funded by very skilful herding, breeding, renting and selling of their camels; along with expert trading along the Red Sea coast. (Mat Phillips – Lonely Planet).
The most imposing element of Rashaida attire is the veil.
The Rashaida are of Sunni muslin faith, and to them veiling is essential and to choose not to observe this cultural element of Rashaida faith would be considered an insult to Allah.
A girl will begin to wear a veil at 5 years of age. The veil is richly adorned, and worn even when attending to daily tasks. The veils are heavy and opaque, they are worn to cover the face up to the middle of the nose. Headscarf and forehead bands leave only the eyes of a woman visible. The Rashaida women consider that to be veiled is to be beautiful.
A Rashaida bridal veil is a textile of great beauty. It has opulent rows of metallic thread embroidery, often with added seed pearls, which are geometrically arranged. Silver adornments are often suspended centrally from the centre of the forehead, hanging between the eyes and often extending to almost the same length as the veil, which is to the hip.
The striking embroidered dresses worn by Rashaida women are elaborately stitched in Port Sudan and Kassala, where many Rashaida peoples have now settled. (Jane Pelez)
The jewellery consists of pieces which are generally made by the Rashaida women. (Mohammed Hasan Fadalla – The problem of Dar Fur) There is a lucrative trade in Jewels to bring income for Rashaida women.
Young men and women of Rashaida culture do not mix freely, there are few chances for young couples to meet of their own accord ( Beckwith – African Ceremonies) Marriages are generally arranged, though a girl may approach a man and lift her veil to reveal her chin, this constitues an offer of marriage. (Patricia Levy – Sudan)
Very little in jewellery and clothing has changed for Rashaida women since they arrived in the Horn of Africaaround 150 years ago from the Arabian Peninuslar.