The headscarf is an inevitable part of the Arab tradition. The headscarf has become a symbol of their cultural pride. You will come across two types of headscarves, which are known in the UAE by its Arabic name Ghutra. This is similar to the practice of wearing turbans in other cultures.
One is entirely white, and the other, chequered red. Technically, the chequered ones are called the shemaghs (also called a Keffiyeh), while the white ones are called the Ghutra. But for convenience, we will use Ghutras for both of them.
Although there are other types of checkered patterns for the ghutras like black, only the red and white ones are used in the UAE.
It takes some practice to tie Ghutra as neat and clean as the Arabs do. They have different styles for formal and casual occasions. For casual outfits, they tie the ghutras around their heads. On the other hand, for formal events, they have to wear it with an Egal.
Arabic headscarves or Ghutra
These headscarves were an adaptation that helped them survive the hot desert. It protected them against the sun and the dust. While the weather was amicable, they would tie it around the head with face uncovered. But when the weather gets hard on them or when they are hit by a dust storm, they would tie it around the face, covering most of the face except for the eyes.
But you won’t see the Arabs covering their faces anymore in the culture because these days people do not travel in the desert as much. Also, if there is a sandstorm, people have the luxury not to come outdoors until it’s gone.
Therefore the most prevalent types of headdresses these days are the formal style and the other one with the Ghutra tied around the head.
How to tie a proper Emirati Ghutra
Learning how to tie an Arabic headdress will come in handy when you go for a desert safari trip. Especially if you do so in summer. Also, if you want to complete the Emirati look when you dress up, you cannot do without a proper ghutra. Although you might have to try a few times before getting it right (like all things), here are the steps you get you started.
The Ghutra is originally a square piece of fine clothing. First, you have to fold that in half. But the first fold should be diagonal so that you will get a triangle.
Fold it again from the broader side of it towards the opposite side. But this time, do not fold it in half. Instead, fold it till halfway so that you will get something like this.
Place the folded Ghutra over your head wider side towards the front with the fold facing outward. Dangle both ends on your sides.
Take the side of the Ghutra hanging on your left side and fold it inwards. Make two folds. Fold the width in half two times.
Take the folded end and tie it around your head. Pocket the end inside the fold you have made in the first step.
Now take the end dangling on your right. Do the same as step three, but this time, fold it outward.
Just like you did with the other end, tie this one around the head. Tuck this end in between the folds the same way. Or you can hang the end a little and make a small tail in the front.
If everything is done well, it should look like this.
But it’s okay if you don’t get this perfect the first time. No one does. Just keep on trying till you find the nuances of it yourself.
How to wear a formal Ghutra
Wearing a formal style Ghutra is a lot easier. For that, you have to do steps one and two as above. But instead of tying it around your head, you can place an Egal over it. The scarf will stay in place due to the weight of the Egal. It’s just as easy as that!
You might also want to try out the desert safari tours which offer heritage experiences along with adventurous dune bashing and quad biking in the desert.
If you want to find out all the things there are to see and do in Dubai, check out the list we compiled. By the way, don’t forget to rock your Emirati Ghutra on the desert safari trip. Bon voyage!