Male Headwear

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 (for instance Muslim men's headwear should enable their forehead to touch the ground during salat (prayers) ).

The common basic building blocks for male head dress are:

In some cases the wearer will have a skullcap, then a fez and then either a turban or draped headscarf. Sometimes the wearer will only have one or two although the fez as standalone headwear is only historical. The kufiya - as ghoutra and `iqal - is associated with Arabs and Bedouins. Turbans are common in North Africa - the Maghrib and Egypt, among the leaders in Iran, and in countries further east.

Turkey 1938.
Turkey 1938
Egypt, 1967.
Egyptian rural turban
Egypt 1967
Beduoins 1923.
Bedouins wearing kufiya -
ghoutra & `iqal. 1923

Taqiyah (Skullcap)

The skullcap (taqiyah or `araqiyeh) is sometimes worn by itself by adult men - as shown in the accompanying photos from Egypt and Syria. In some societies it is also the default head dress for boys (eg Palestine).

It also worn under many styles of turban and was traditionally worn under the tarbush or fez.

Women sometimes also wear skullcaps under their head dress and it also forms part of the Afghan burqa.

Anawalt, Weir

Fez or Tarbush

A fez is a brimless felted hat known names after the city Fez in Morocco often worn over a skullcap. Also known as a "tarbush" (also spelt "tarboosh" or "tarbouche"), checheya and phecy. The original Maghrib version tends to be soft and rounded. The Turkish version is harder with straighter sides and often red in colour and with a tassel. In Palestine these two versions were known as "tarbush maghribi" and "tarbush istambuli". With the former historically associated with villagers and the latter with urban men of influence.

In Turkey it was a part of the formal dress of all men - regardless of their religion from the early 1800s. But it was banned in 1926 by Ataturk as part of the Westernization following the creation of the Turkish Republic.

Egypt adopted the tarbush in the 1820s - making it part of the military uniform and becoming a major manufacturer. It was banned in 1952 after Egyptian revolution as a symbol of independence from Ottoman influences.

Weir, Raafat

Algeria, 1928.
Boy wearing fez
Algeria, 1928
Egypt, 1926.
Tarbush maker
Egypt 1926
Egypt, 1926.
Tarbushes and shishas
Egypt 1926
Turban wound over tarbush

Turban (dulband, 'imma, laffeh, masar or sarik)

Turbans are wound lengths of fabric (shaal). This can be anything from 2m-16m! Turbans can be wound over a taqiyah or over a taqiyah and tarbush. In the latter case the tarbush is often visible and the tassel hangs free. In Yemen the cap under the turban is known as a "kalansuwa"

Turbans are common in North Africa - the Maghrib and Egypt, Oman, among the leaders in Iran, and in countries further east. Turbans were commonly worn in the Levant but were dropped in Palestine and replaced by the kufiya as a symbol of Nationalism in the 1930s.

The Kurdish turban is sometimes called a "fly whisk turban" due to its tassels.

Kennet, Keohane, Weir, Sanders, Anawalt

Turkey 18th century.
18th century
Yemen, 1964.
Yemen 1964
Yemen, 1964.
Yemen 1964
Kurd, 1960.
Fly whisk
Iran 1960
Tuareg man, 1958.
Maghrib 1958
Cairo, Egypt.
Cairo, Egypt
Palestine, 1926.


A style of headwear which is made up of a square of fabric folded into a triangle and worn with one point on each shoulder and one down the back. It is held in place with a circlet originally made of camel hair - the `iqal. The square of fabric is known as a ghoutra. A taqiyah is often worn under the ghoutra.

The kufiya is associated with Arabs and Bedouins. It is not worn by Egyptians or Omanis who each prefer a differing wrapped turban style of headdress. The Palestinians adopted the kufiya in the 1930s. In 1967 this was further narrowed to a black and white checked kufiya like Arafat wore. Traditionally Jordon's kufiya is red and white checked, Iraq's has a dense black weave, while Saudi Arabia and Kuwait favour white.

Anawalt , Kennet, Keohane, Weir

Arab, 1938.
Palestine, 1938.


There are a number of other styles of headdress which are less common. In the Maghrib Berbers often use the hood of their djellabia or burnous. The Druze have their own styles of headwear. And the Kurds in Iran have the distinctive qashqai felt hat. In the rural south of the Arabian Peninsula both men and women wear conical straw hats.

Parker, Weir, Anawalt, Kennet

hood - Morocco 1935.
Morocco 1935
Druze, Israel.
Kurd, Iran 1950.
Iran 1950

Other general types of clothing:

unmodified lengths    cloaks    sleeveless tunics    skirts    men's headwear    women's headwear

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