Although Islam enjoins both men and women to cover their hair, people of all religions do so throughout the region. The style of head covering gives a lot of information about the wearer's location - in both time and space, their status, and their religion.
In many cultures women also veil their faces. This can vary from pulling their headscarf across their face to elaborate masks. Veiling is covered in a separate section.
The simplest head covering is to pull part of the other clothing over the head. Examples would include wrapped clothes such as the izar, the hood of the burnous, or the sleeve of some Bedouin thobes. There are also mantles that are pulled over the head such as the haik, chadors and milaya lef.
Woman and child,
HeadscarvesThe next level is a rectangular scarf which can be pinned around the face, wrapped around the head, held by a headband or formed into a bag. These various scarves can have a range of local names. The general Arabic term for headscarf is khimar. But these are also known as hattah, zurband, shash, qun`ah, mandil and a range of other terms.
Kurds and some coastal women from Oman also wear wrapped scarves like small turbans under a veil.
Al-Muhajabah, Weir, Kennet
khimar pinned under chin
and covering hair, Iran 1921
headscarf with headband
hatta folded into a bag
HatsThere are also a range of formed hats. In many places women wear skullcaps (taqiyeh) - sometimes with a veil. In some parts of Palestine, married women and widows wear a tarbush shaped hat covered in coins (shatweh). While to the north they wear a coin covered bonnet (smadeh) and another horseshow shape with more coins (saffeh). In Lebanon married women wore a tantour - like a fairy princess hat. In the rural south of the Arabian Peninsula women (like the men) wear conical straw hats. In Iran unmarried nomads wear pill box hats.
Weir, Eid, Kennet, Anawalt
Shatweh covered by veil
Smadeh and saffeh
Unisex straw hat over veil
South Yemen 1985
Status MarkersAs well as varying by location, headwear is also used to signal marital status, religion and class. For instance, in some Bedouin groups unmarried women wear the hattah like a bag while married women wear it rolled and folded as a headband (`asbeh). In northern Palestine unmarried girls wear a bonnet (malas) while the married women wear long flowing veils. In some areas when the girls reach marriageable age they switch to a wuqa which is like a simple version of the smadeh - basically a bonnet with a few coins.
In Northern Palestine while their neighbours wear scarves (hattah) or trains (zurband) held in place with a headband (`asbeh), Druze women wear white veils only - and the Bedouin women wear dark blue or black veils.
The Palestinian festive veil (tarbi`ah) is very elaborate. It always includes a black piece with fringe and tassels but the village version also has embroidered panel (naqleh) while the town version does not.
Bedouin married and unmarried women
Young woman wearing wuqa
Woman with hattah and `asbeh
Other general types of clothing:
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