The Sudanese Toub, a traditional women costume, enjoys a distinguished position in the Sudanese society with a deeply-rooted history where it is essential in any women wardrobe, not to mention that it has become an
inseparable part of the Sudanese culture and a promoter for the Sudanese cultural identity.
The Sudanese Toub is known for its stylish beauty which made it a theme of many Sudanese poems and lyrics.
In this respect, the renowned Sudanese singer Abu Araki Al-Bakheet has a famous song about the Sudanese Toub that reads as follows:
“I have seen the Toub and never seen what is more gorgeous,
If so is the Toub, then how the person dressing in the Toub would look!!
Late Ibrahim Al Ahau, also a famous Sudanese singer, has repeated a song featuring the beauty of the Sudanese Toub:
“I have seen the dear love decently dressing in the Toub, oh; it has added to your splendor, dear charming love…”
In fact many Sudanese singers have expressed their love and pride of the Sudanese Toub including late Ahmed Al-Mustafa, Mohamed Wardi and others.
Regarding whether the Toub is of Sudanese origin or imported, Omaima Mohamed Qurashi, a Sudanese student and a folklore researcher, said that a number of studies have proved that the Toub had appeared since the Sudanese Bajrawiya civilization, i.e. more than 10.000 years ago.
She noted that it was a national costume for the queens, explaining that some studies indicated that Queen Kandaka was the first woman who put on the Sudanese Toub.
She said the first Sudanese Toub appeared in two types, the first was known as the Kanja and the second Al-Zaraq or what is known as Al-Neela and which is made of woven strings of the Sudanese cotton.
She went on saying that latter appeared Sudanese Toubs such as Al-Taraqa and the blank Krip which was brought from Egypt by merchants known in Sudan as Al-Nagada, noting that Al-Kirip Toub is characterized by its black color and soft fabric.
Al-Kirib, which is also known as Masr Al-Baida, was a treat of the rich women, she said, adding that after Al-Kirib, appeared Al-Farda Toubs which are also made of the Sudanese cotton.
Omaima further stated that the Sudanese Toub then continued developing until modern Sudanese Toubs started to dominate the marked to replace the old fashions, saying that during the dual rule and after the independence, new collections of imported Sudanese Toubs started to appear bearing names indicating the political and social events at that time such as Al-Diplomacy, Aspou Al-Mar’a, Shamal-Naseem, Al-Kadir, Al-Istiqlal (the Independence), Al-Dala, Abu Gigaija, Police Al-Najda (the traffic police) and others.
The Sudanese toub has witnessed several changes in terms of design and size, where Omaima affirmed that the Sudanese toub used to be of two pieces of the same shape and length, four and a half meter each, pointing out that the two pieces are woven together in a parallel manner.
She added that presently the imported Sudanese toub has become one piece but with the same length and width of the old toub, i.e. four and a half meter, which is perfect to cover the whole woman’s body.
Austaza Tahani Abu Bakr, a costume designer in Khartoum North, on her part, said the Sudanese toub in the past used to have names indicating the country of origin such as Al-Bangali, in reference to Bangladesh, Risalat London, the Indian Sari and others, but presently, and because many Arab, European, Asian countries and others started to produce the Sudanese toub, it gained many names reflecting the latest political and social developments at the local and international levels.
She further reviewed the Sudanese toub in terms of types and materials including cotton, silk and chiffon, pointing out that the Swiss-made Total is still toping the Sudanese toubs as for its high quality and style not to mention that it suits Sudan’s climate despite its high prices.
The said Switzerland is the biggest producer of the Sudanese toub, pointing out that the Swiss designers follow up the Sudanese market and monitor the trends of the Sudanese toub styles to create the most fashionable types.
Regarding the shapes of the Sudanese toub, she said the designs and color include drawings, embroidered, blank and water-colored designs, explaining that all these matters are governed by the fashion and style.
She further said that the occasion define the color of the toub when purchased, noting that the white is for mourning, explaining that when a woman’s husband dies, she keeps on wearing the white toub until her legal mourning period is over.
She reiterated that the white in Sudan indicates sorrow unlike other countries where the people dress in black to express their sorrow, pointing out that there is also Al-Jertik toub, usually red, which is part of the marriage rituals nation-wide.
However, she said there is an exception with regard to the white toub as all government female employees wears it as part of work costume, pointing out that though colored toubs have recently been allowed in some institutions, yet other institutions do not allow them, particularly the Republican Palace and the Council of Ministers.
In the meantime, Sudanow interviewed a number of Sudanese women about the Sudanese toub where all of them reiterated that it is still the most favored which distinguishes the Sudanese woman.
They affirmed that they adhere to the Sudanese toub despite the many imported alternative fashions such as the Gulf Abaya (garment), stressing that the imported fashions would never replace the Sudanese toub for its civilizational and heritage value.
They said the Sudanese toub is decent and reflects the Sudanese woman’s style and good taste despite its renewable designs.
They described the world of the Sudanese toub as rich and renewable despite its typical designing manner which does not contradict the usual Sudanese toub which lasted regardless of globalization, the TV satellites and cultural openness which have not affected the Sudanese toub but given it new names such as Al-internet, Al-Dish, Naivasha, Hamsal-Khaleej and others.
Additionally, the Sudanese toub is a traditional woman costume and an important indicator of the economic status of the woman’s husband where the quality and the price of the toub define the buyer and therefore it’s a means of showing pride among women, particularly during social events where the women compete to wear the most fashionable toubs.
Here, we must mention that any social occasion has a specific type of toub, for instance, when a woman visits here neighbors, she puts on a simple toub known as toubal-Jiran (the neighbors’ toub) and so on.
The term toub (cloth) is an absolute tern for any dress, but it has a very special meaning for the Sudanese woman as it represents the most important component in her national costume. The toub therefore constitutes the title of the women’s social and economic status and tops the gifts brought to all women regardless of their age, not to mention that the quality and the price of the toub reveals the woman’s taste and style.