The abaya "cloak" is an overgarment worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world. It is the traditional form of hijab, or Islamic dress, for many countries of the Arabian peninsula such as Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates, where it is the national dress. Contrary to popular belief, the abaya is not mandated by The Qur'an.
Traditional abayat are black and may be either a large square of fabric draped from the shoulders or head or a long caftan. The abaya covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands. It can be worn with the niqab, a face veil covering all but the eyes. Some women choose to wear long black gloves, so their hands are covered as well.
Saudi Arabia requires women to cover in public. Covering is enforced by the religious police, the muṭṭawwi‘īn (also known as the muttawwa). In Iran the cover is often referred to as a chador. In South Asia, it is known as a burqa. Some Muslim women living in the West also cover themselves as part of their religion and culture.
Abayat are known by various names but serve the same purpose, which is to cover. Contemporary models are usually caftans, cut from light, flowing fabrics like crepe, georgette, and chiffon. Styles differ from region to region: some abayat have embroidery on black material while others are brightly coloured and have different forms of artwork across them.