Monday, December 11, 2023

Bisht— a symbol of Arab identity

Bisht is made from camel's hair and goat wool that is spun and woven into a breathable fabric. Some bisht garments include a trim, known as "zari", made out of silk and metals such as gold and silver.

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A bisht is a traditional men’s cloak popular in the Arab world, and worn in general for thousands of years. According to ancient Christian and Hebrew paintings, a similar robe was worn in the days of Jesus, by the people of the Levant.

The bisht is a flowing outer cloak worn over a thawb.

A bisht is usually worn for prestige on special occasions such as weddings, or festivals such as Eid, or for Ṣalāt al-Jumuʿah or Salat al-Janazah. It is usually worn by secular officials or clergy, including tribal chiefs, kings, and imams over a thawb, kanzu or tunic. It is a status garment, associated with royalty, religious position, wealth, and ceremonial occasions such as weddings, like the black-tie tuxedo in the West.

Etymology of ‘bisht’

The triliteral root of the word bisht is widely used in Semitic languages, including Arabic, and is related to the Akkadian bishtu, meaning ‘nobility’ or ‘dignity’.

The alternate name of ʿabāʾ (Arabic: عَبَاء) is from the Arabic triliteral root ʿAyn-Bāʾ-Wāw, which relates to ‘filling out’.

History of bisht

The oldest historical record in which the Arab bisht or cloak is mentioned may be in the book of dates of the Greek historian Herodotus (Greek: Ἡρόδοτος), who lived in the fifth century BC, in his description of the clothing of Arab soldiers.

Arab soldiers wear long cloaks that they tie with a belt, and their long bows are on their right arms and are placed upside down.

According to the researchers, the linguistic origin of the word Besht goes back to Akkadian, the language of the people of Iraq in the land of Babylon, which is a Semitic dialect of the mother Semitic Arabic language. It means majesty, majesty , and the historical and natural context confirms this meaning, as it was worn by princes, rulers, nobles, and adults throughout history and ages, until it was considered a symbol of prestige and loftiness in society. Some misinterpreted concepts have been mentioned, including linking the apparent similarity of the drawing of the word “pisht” (breaking the Ba’) and the Persian word pasht (joining the Ba’a) (in Persian: pasht); Which means “behind”, because it is worn from the back, but it is a wrong interpretation, in addition to that it has not been proven in history that the Persians wore or weaved the bisht.

The word “bisht” was used in the book The End of the Rank in requesting the hisba of the deceased Shirazi in the year 589 AH, and he said what should be The baker must wear it “so he does not knead without wearing a dressing gown or a bisht with cut off sleeves.” 

Colour of bisht

It is usually black, brown, beige, cream or gray in colour.

Manufacturing of bisht

Bisht is made from camel’s hair and goat wool that is spun and woven into a breathable fabric. Some bisht garments include a trim, known as “zari”, made out of silk and metals such as gold and silver.

The fabric has a soft yarn for the summer and the coarse-haired for winter.

The process of sewing the bisht comes after the process of spinning wool and cotton threads according to the color of the bisht. It takes a long time, accuracy and skill, so its prices are higher compared to the types of bishot that are woven using the machine, and they are usually at lower prices. Lama wool is often used to knit these types of bishouts. Sewing the bishout is divided into several methods. Such as:

  • Al-Darbawiyyah: It is hand-stitched, with embroidery and miniatures made from the original zari, with various engravings and designs, including the mandili, the royal, the maqtaa, and the broken. It is a detail of the bisht and its hand embroidery on the edges of the bisht.
  • Installation: It is a ready-made darbuya in the form of a tape that is fixed on the bisht after it is sewn.

And according to the different types of bisht according to their quality, we find that there are other ways for each type of it separately in terms of folding it. Bishot, so kings, princes and senior sheikhs adopted them to sew their own Bashout.

Types of bishts

Men’s bishts are classified according to the style or the veil on them into two types:

  • The Jasbi Bisht, which is the gilded veil and the name, is attributed to Sheikh Khazal bin Jaber, Amir al-Muhammarah, and he was the first to have these gilded , brocade gowns made for him.
  • The second cloak is “liberation” in relation to silk and its threads, whose color matches the color of the cloak. This type is common in Iraq, especially in the south, in the Emirate of Muhammarah, and in some parts of the Arabian Peninsula as well.

Basht is divided into two types in terms of fabric:

  • Bisht for Summer: It is a soft-touch yarn that is usually expensive due to its long knitting period and good yarns. Among its types are Swiss, Najafi, Doraki, Super Japanese, Japanese Deluxe, Japanese, London, and Saudi (Hasawi). It is one of the finest types of bashout in the world, and there are museums of bashout in Al-Ahsa.
  • Bisht for Winter: It is made of coarse threads such as lint and is not usually as accurate as required from the soft summer cloak, the most famous of which is the burqa cloak, usually in white or black. Among its types: Super Kashmir – Bushehr wool – Jaberlux wool.

Bisht on Lionel Messi

In the 2022 FIFA World Cup final, Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani placed a bisht on the Argentine captain Lionel Messi before the 35-year-old was handed the trophy.

Sheikh Tamim placed a bisht on Lionel Messi during the trophy presentation. | Image: Getty Images
Sheikh Tamim placed a bisht on Lionel Messi during the trophy presentation. | Image: Getty Images


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