The African continent hosts a multitude of interesting lifestyles. Sudan is the biggest African county and the largest Arab country in the world. By law, Sudanese women must wear a certain type of clothing that covers almost the entire body. It is meant to cover a woman’s beauty to preserve herself for her husband and prevent sexual objectification. Sudanese women believe their clothing will keep them pure before their god Allah.


Before the Muslim invasion in the 13th century, women in Nubia (later known as Sudan and Egypt) used to wear draped pieces of material made out of the flax plant (it grows up to 47 inches with slender stems). With the Muslim rule, the sharia law was implemented, and men and women had to adopt the new clothing style of Arab countries. Women’s clothing includes a tob, a hijab and a chadur.


A tob is the traditional Sudanese dress, a 15-foot long piece of material wrapped around the body worn by both men and women. They wear it during all activities, even inside the house. The women’s tob is more colorful. While men wear it with each end thrown over each shoulder, women throw just one end over the left shoulder. The dress covers the legs down to the ankles, and it has an open edge in the front. Usually, women wear the tob over a short dress.


The hijab is a kind of long shawl that covers the woman’s head, hiding her beauty from the eyes of other men besides her husband. The hijab also makes them look more mysterious. Unlike the tob, women can remove the hijab inside the house. While women in other Arab countries leave only their eyes uncovered, Sudanese women do not cover their faces with the hijab.


The chadur is a long piece of material worn as an overcoat. It covers the entire body, including the head. The chadur is more common for women in Iran, but Sudanese women also wear it over the tob and hijab.

Southern Clothing

In the south of Sudan, most inhabitants are Dinka. The Dinkas have no political authority and are agri-pastoral tribes. Women from the Dinka tribes wear a shorter version of the tob that ends below their knees. Their tob is more colorful and allows them to move more freely. They only cover their heads to protect themselves from the sun. Some of the women from the Dinka tribes wear only goatskin shirts and no shoes. Their breasts are exposed or covered with strings of beads.

References and Resources

Introduction to the Sudanese
Ancient Sudan


Life in Sudan