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 in the UAE by their 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 checkered patterns for the ghutras, like black, only red and white ones are used in the UAE.
Tying Ghutra as neat and clean as the Arabs do takes some practice. They have different styles for formal and casual occasions. For casual outfits, they tie the ghutras around their heads with Kandura. On the other hand, they have to wear it with an Egal for formal events, which are part of UAE traditional dress.
Arabic Headscarves or Ghutra
These headscarves were an adaptation that helped them survive the hot desert. It protected them against the sun and dust. While the weather was amicable, they would tie it around the head with faces uncovered. But when the weather gets hard on them, or a dust storm hits them, they 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 people do not travel in the desert as often these days. Also, if there is a sandstorm, people have the luxury of not coming 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, especially if you do so in summer. You cannot do without a proper ghutra to complete the Emirati look when you dress up. Although you might have to try a few times before getting it right (like all things), here are the steps you get started.
Ghutra – Step One
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 to 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 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. Please do the same as step three, but this time, fold it outward.
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 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 Emirati 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 discover all the things to do in Dubai, check out our compiled list. By the way, don’t forget to rock your Emirati Ghutra on the desert safari trip. Bon, voyage!