This is a four meter long by one meter and sixty centimeter wide piece of fabric/cloth worn by the Sahraoui woman wherever she goes. Yet, not all of these loose women’s gowns are similar: women distinguish between those worn on special occasions, and casual ones worn by women on a daily basis. There is also another difference having to do with the age of the women: those which are worn by young women are quite different from those worn by elderly ladies.
In ancient times, Sahraoui maidens used to put on a gown akin to the Derra`ah, usually consisting of two pieces, a blue piece and a black one, and would arrange their hair in one plait or tress. When they came of age, they would wear the Malhafa up until their marriage.
Broadly speaking, the way the Malhafa is worn has not changed much; the only slight changes have to do with the kind of fabric used to make it. New and varied fabrics, previously unknown to Sahraoui people, are now invading the markets. The gown has also witnessed some minor modifications to keep in step with the evolutions that the Sahraoui woman has known.