Abaya vs. Burqa

What's the Difference?

Abaya and Burqa are both traditional garments worn by women in certain cultures, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia. The Abaya is a loose-fitting, black cloak that covers the entire body, except for the face, hands, and feet. It is often made of lightweight fabric and is worn as an outer garment. On the other hand, the Burqa is a full-body covering that includes a mesh screen over the face, allowing only the eyes to be visible. It is usually worn in Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan. While both garments serve the purpose of modesty and religious adherence, the Burqa provides a higher level of coverage and concealment compared to the Abaya.


Photo by Ahmed Carter on Unsplash
OriginSaudi ArabiaMiddle East, South Asia
StyleLoose-fitting cloakFull-body covering
UsageEveryday wear, formal occasionsReligious and cultural attire
DesignVaries in colors, patterns, and embellishmentsUsually plain and monochromatic
Face CoveringDoes not cover the faceCovers the face with a mesh or screen
LengthUsually ankle-lengthCan vary from ankle-length to floor-length
AccessoriesOften worn with a headscarfMay be worn with a separate head covering
PopularityWidely worn in the Arabian PeninsulaCommonly worn in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of India
Photo by أخٌ‌في‌الله on Unsplash

Further Detail


The Abaya and Burqa are two traditional garments worn by Muslim women around the world. While both serve the purpose of modesty and adherence to religious beliefs, they differ in their design, cultural significance, and regional variations. In this article, we will explore the attributes of Abaya and Burqa, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Design and Appearance

The Abaya is a loose-fitting, full-length cloak-like garment that is worn over regular clothing. It is typically made of lightweight fabrics such as chiffon, crepe, or cotton. The Abaya is open in the front and can be worn with a belt to provide a more fitted look. It is available in various colors and designs, ranging from simple and plain to intricately embroidered or embellished.

On the other hand, the Burqa is a full-body covering that includes a head covering as well. It is usually made of a single piece of fabric, often black, and covers the entire body from head to toe. The face is covered with a mesh screen or a separate piece of fabric, leaving only the eyes visible. The Burqa is designed to completely conceal the shape of the body, ensuring maximum modesty.

Cultural Significance

The Abaya holds cultural significance in many Muslim-majority countries, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula. It is considered a symbol of national identity and is often worn as a traditional dress. The Abaya is also seen as a fashion statement, with designers incorporating modern trends and styles into its design. It is commonly worn in public spaces, such as malls, offices, and social gatherings.

Similarly, the Burqa carries cultural significance in regions like Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. It is associated with cultural norms and traditions, reflecting the conservative values of those societies. The Burqa is often worn in public spaces and is seen as a symbol of religious devotion and adherence to Islamic teachings.

Regional Variations

While the Abaya is primarily associated with the Arabian Peninsula, it has regional variations in terms of design and style. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the Abaya is typically black and more conservative, covering the entire body. In contrast, in countries like the United Arab Emirates, the Abaya can be more colorful and may feature intricate embroidery or embellishments.

Similarly, the Burqa also has regional variations. In Afghanistan, the Burqa is known as the "chadri" and covers the entire body, including the face, with a mesh screen. In contrast, in parts of Pakistan, the Burqa may be less restrictive, with a separate head covering and a loose-fitting garment that covers the body but leaves the face exposed.

Modesty and Religious Observance

Both the Abaya and Burqa are worn as a means of modesty and religious observance. They serve to protect the wearer's privacy and maintain a sense of dignity. By covering the body, these garments aim to divert attention from physical appearance and focus on inner qualities and character.

While the Abaya allows for more individual expression and personal style, the Burqa provides a higher level of coverage and anonymity. The Burqa is often seen as a more conservative choice, emphasizing the importance of modesty and separation from the public eye.


In conclusion, the Abaya and Burqa are both garments worn by Muslim women to adhere to religious beliefs and maintain modesty. While the Abaya is a loose-fitting cloak-like garment that can be worn over regular clothing, the Burqa is a full-body covering that includes a head covering. They differ in design, cultural significance, regional variations, and level of coverage. Ultimately, the choice between the Abaya and Burqa depends on personal preference, cultural norms, and religious observance.

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