Covering the head is a cultural norm throughout most of the Middle East and Maghrib - for both men and women of all religions. However, in some Muslim societies this has been extended to veiling the face and even the body as well - usually just for women. For example pre-pubescent girls are usually exempt and Tuareg men, but not women veil.
In Palestine village and bedouin women did not veil - while the urban women did.
(Whether or not the Quran requires the face to be covered - or only the head is subject to different interpretations).
The degree to which the veiling occurs varies widely. In some cases the existing head cover is drawn over the face when needed. At the other extreme the Afghan burqa covers the whole body from the top of the head to ankles even covering the face completely with a mesh panel.
Women using their
chadors as veils
Algerian woman pulls her
melia across her face as
a veil. 1967
Woman in khimar
Young girls can go
unveiled. Their servant
cannot. Oman 1956
Bedouin in shambar
bound by `asbeh
BurqaA face veil is known as a burqa (or bur`a in Egypt). There are a number of variations. The boushiya is sheer and has no holes for the eyes. The full niqab does have eye holes. The half niqab falls from the bridge of the nose (this is called a bur`a in Egypt). There is also a horse hair niqab that hinges open. And Bedouin women often wear elaborate masks - whose style depends on geographical location.
Khimar VariationsKhimar can be used as the general word for a woman's headscarf or specifically for a circular headcovering with a hole cut for the face reaching the waist (see above).
A chador can also be thought of as a type of long khimar.
khimar pinned under chin
and covering hair, Iran 1921
khimar over skullcap
khimar left open
buknuk - short khimar
Chador versus Afghan Burqa
The chador is a long rectangular length of fabric wrapped about the body from head to calf (or ankle) leaving the face free.
Reza Shah forbade women to veil their faces or wear the chador in Iran during the 1920s. By the 1950s the chador began to return.
The Afghan burqa is a full body garment with a built in skullcap and face mesh. This is most commonly worn in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. While the Taliban were in control they made the wearing of this a requirement on all women.
Al-Muhajabah, Goldschmidt, National
Men are veiled but women never are.
Also see women's headwear
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