In Salalah in the south of Oman, a wedding without a nice dress and frankincense – aromatic gum resin – is incomplete. In 2002 Muna Mohammed and Raniah, two girlfriends, joined 300 women travelling to Jordan for ten months. They were being sent there by the Ministry of Manpower to learn the basic techniques of drawing, stitching and designing dresses.
Back in Salalah, in 2006, they opened ‘Raya’a shop’ (meaning gorgeous) in the street between the Corniche and the Hafa Incense soukh. The shop became a treasure trove of dresses mostly in an Arabic design. Dresses in velvet, silk, chiffon and organza textiles are abundantly decorated with pearls, crystals or embroidered in abstract or floral designs. All the materials that they need they find in the soukh or in specialized shops in Salalah. The jewelry that customers can hire comes from Dubai.
For trends and styles, they look into fashion catalogues and on the internet. Muna and Raniah have customers from Muscat, Sur and Salalah. When visiting their shop details or designs can be discussed, sketched on the bill and brought to reality as much as the customer desires. Beside designing Muna and Raniah also do the stitching. In periods of higher demand ( in Salalah from April till September) they employ help.
“For Salalah in the south, black is the favorite colour. For Muscat in the north, bright colours are favorite. For the Gulf, white and grey colours are in high demand ”says Muna while showing me a black dress beautifully decorated with 750 Swarovski crystals in a floral design. It’s a wedding dress. “ Hiring out the dresses for one night is our core business. Its common in Oman.”says Muna. ‘’ Of course people can buy. But mostly it’s the family members of the bride that hire their dresses.” The rental prices fluctuate between a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 80 Omani Rial, which includes the cleaning of the dress after the wedding party. Proudly the 28 year old ladies show me their designs. Indeed ‘Raya’a is gorgeous.’ One can ask who is the princess at the wedding?
Raya’a shop, Hafa Soukh Salalah,
Tel. +968 98068971, +968 96298616, +968 99692634