The Jabador: History and Origins

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he Jabador is a traditional Moroccan outfit worn on various occasions (weddings, engagements, baptisms, religious holidays etc...).

It's a set composed of three pieces:

  1. A pair of pants
  2. A tunic
  3. A vest

Wearing Serwal (pants) and a Bad'ia (traditional sleeveless vest) had been in practice since the beginning of the era of Islamization in Morocco, so we can consider them in some ways the embryonic form of the Jabador.

This set was initially worn under the Kaftan or the Jellaba. It was the establishment, later, of a jacket to match a Bad'ia and a Serwal that gave birth to the Jabador.

According to the Arabist Luciano Rubio Calzón, the Jabador is the garment that Hassan al-Wazzan (Leo the African) refers to in his Description of Africa published in the years 1525 where he mentions the nobles of Fez. After all, at its inception, this outfit was reserved for the country's rich townspeople (merchants, dignitaries, ambassadors etc...).

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This passage from al-Fishtali in the 16th century also mentions the Jabador in filigree, describing a wax procession on the occasion of Eid Nabawi carried out in Marrakech by Amaria bearers. This tradition, perpetuated by the Neggafates, continues to the present day, requiring the bride's bearers to wear the Jabador.

Thus, through this Moussem of candle procession in Salé, the Jabador has retained all its authenticity and richness of yesteryear, having undergone very few modifications.

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Moroccan iconographic sources are extremely rare due to the recommendation of Islam on the non-figuration of the human being, but these French engravings of 1699 of Moroccan ambassadors in Paris reveal to us what is similar to the primitive Jabador. Abdelmalek Lahlou reports that Jabador would even be a corruption of the word ambassador.

However, it was not until the 19th century that this outfit was explicitly mentioned in European literature. The latter would be the local dress in force in Tangier during the same period. However, a portion of the population continues to perpetuate the use of the Moroccan caftan.

At the beginning of the 20th century, we note that the Jabador continued to be democratized and took up more and more space in the dressing room of Moroccans, even replacing the indoor caftan.

Excerpts from the sources below:

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The momentum of Moroccan designers in the 20th century in the reinterpretation of traditional costumes did not spare this outfit, without however betraying its form and its traditional character. Designers will draw on Moroccan clothing heritage and add modern touches.

The essence of Jabador will be turned upside down:

  • The Serwal Qandrisi will be replaced by modern embroidered pants
  • The Bad'ia will give way to a three-quarter Moroccan caftan
  • The transparent vest, on the other hand, is a replica of the Mansouria, a transparent fabric introduced by Ahmed Al Mansour in the 16th century.

The set is decorated with typical Moroccan embroidery, heir to fourteen centuries of craftsmanship (SFIFA, Aakad, Dfira, Kitane etc...), all made of fine wool called Mlifa nowadays (on the other hand, the archives mentioned the name Melf Keskessou or Kouskousou).

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The 20th century was also the period during which the Jabador became popular among women, thanks to the wonders of the first generations of Moroccan designers.

Exhibition of a Jabador stylized by Zina Guessous.

As for men, Moroccan women will first wear it under the jellaba. Today, this Moroccan outfit is making its way beyond national borders. Indeed, Morocco has always been renowned for its traditional outfits and the Jabador is no exception to the rule. In 2019, traditional clothes (caftan, Jabador, jellaba...) were already at the top of the most requested products abroad.

Excerpts from the sources below:

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Références :

Moroccan costumes, Jean Besancenot, 1944

Recuerdos de un viaje a Marruecos, Fernando Amor, 1859

Journey to Morocco, Étienne Richet, 1909

Trip to Morocco, Ali Bey, 1803

Main picture: Mosa'ab Elshamy