x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Saudi shemagh fly off the shelves during Ramadan

As Saudi Arabia marked the Eid holiday last week, clothing vendors had reason to celebrate. Elizabeth Dickinson reports

Saudi youths dance as they celebrate Eid Al Fitr in Riyadh.
Saudi youths dance as they celebrate Eid Al Fitr in Riyadh.

As Saudi Arabia marked the Eid holiday last week, clothing vendors had reason to celebrate.

Eight million Saudi shemagh were sold in the country during Ramadan, said Abdullah Haddad, a former member of the Fabric Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Saudi daily Arab News quoted Mr Haddad saying that the sales of shemagh - traditional Saudi men's headdress - are estimated at 16 million pieces per year, but in Ramadan, the demand increases.

The shemagh woven cloth, worn by traders, herdsmen and farmers to protect against the elements, is today big business in the kingdom as an important part of Saudi traditional dress.

The Saudi firm listed by Forbes as the seventh most influential Arab company in the world - Ajlan and Bros - got its start making traditional clothing, including headgear.

These days, however, most shemagh are sewn outside of Saudi Arabia. According to government statistics, the kingdom imported nearly 4,000 tonnes of embroidered shemagh in 2012, more than three-quarters coming from China.

Styles and price vary; while the Chinese-made pieces tends to sell at a lower price, luxury shemagh from Switzerland occupy the highest tier of the market, according to import price statistics.

Arab News quoted local traders selling items for between SR150 (Dh147) and SR600 (Dh588).

But traditional dress were not the only clothing items selling out before Eid.

Last week, the Saudi Gazette newspaper reported clothing sales of 6 billion Saudi riyals (Dh5.9bn) in the past two months, quoting the current chairman of the Textiles Committee in Jeddah, Muhammad Al Shihri.

Roughly 60 per cent of Saudi clothing sales are made during the months of Shaaban and Ramadan, he said.

edickinson@thenational.ae

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