The diversity of Yemeni male and female head coverings [Archives:2007/1038/Culture]

April 2 2007
Dhulla Sharafya from Hajja is worn as decoration
Dhulla Sharafya from Hajja is worn as decoration
Oh, whose mercy is upon us, rescue us from what we fear. Yemenis embroider Qa-weq Al-Mukattab with such wise sayings and supplications.
Oh, whose mercy is upon us, rescue us from what we fear. Yemenis embroider Qa-weq Al-Mukattab with such wise sayings and supplications.
Due to its multicolored pieces of fabric, Qa-weq Al-Qus is like a mosaic.
Due to its multicolored pieces of fabric, Qa-weq Al-Qus is like a mosaic.
Muarraqa is worn alone or under al-Qa-weq.
Muarraqa is worn alone or under al-Qa-weq.
From the Tihama, an embroidered Dhulla for women and the other is for men.
From the Tihama, an embroidered Dhulla for women and the other is for men.
Al-Furrada is a piece of white gauze with tassels (athabat) hanging down.
Al-Furrada is a piece of white gauze with tassels (athabat) hanging down.
Women wear al-Qasheta in special occasions.
Women wear al-Qasheta in special occasions.
By: Nisreen Shadad
Both male and female Yemenis wear various types of head coverings. Geographical environment mostly controls the raw materials used, as well as the shapes and forms of such head coverings. Head covering shapes vary from one region to another, according to the environment in which people live.

Qa-weq (Qa-weqat)

Amat Al-Razzaq Jahhaf, director of the Women's Development Center for Traditional Heritage, notes, “Qa-weq isn't an Arabic word, so maybe it's Turkish or Persian. I tried to search for this word in our language, but I couldn't find its source.”

There are numerous types of male head coverings, including Qa-weq Al-Qus, Qa-weq Al-Utb, Qa-weq Al-Qihf and Qa-weq Al-Mukattab.

Qa-weq Al-Qus is made from small, colored pieces of fabric affixed beside each other to form al-qus, similar to the look of a mosaic. This qa-weq later developed and cotton threads were substituted for the pieces of fabric.

“You can twist the cotton threads, which are substituted for the fabric, around straw sticks. Similarly, Qa-weq Al-Qihf is adorned with gold and silver threads along with silk threads. This form gave us an amazing adornment and decorated qa-weq with skillful geometrical shapes,” Jahhaf explained.

“Two types of fabric can be used to wrap Qa-weq Al-Qus, cotton (the type sheikhs wear) or natural silk specialized for traders and statesmen,” she said.

“There are two ways to wrap the fabric for qa-weq: Khashr, which is wrapping the fabric in an unorganized manner, and Mukawlaba, which is folding the fabric over the other and wrapping the qa-weq in an organized manner. The last type is for powerful individuals and statesmen,” she noted.

Qa-weq Al-Utb consists of two pieces of fabric over each other, stuffed with cotton and stitching the fabric edges using a needle. School students normally wear this type of qa-weq.

Qa-weq Al-Mukattab, the last type of qa-weq, can be worn over Qa-weq Al-Qus or Qa-weq Al-Utb.

“Qa-weqat are called Al-Emama when a piece of fabric is wrapped around the qa-weq. Al-Emama is an Arabic word I found in several resources and historical books; however, its exact meaning is unknown. Geographical environment affects Al-Emama types, as well as the raw materials used,” Jahhaf continued.


Kawafi usually are well known in the Tihama as a type of male head covering. Kawafi Al-Mukattab, which is similar to Qa-weq Al-Mukattab and Al-Qihf (the circular-shaped head part of qa-weq), all are adorned with gold threads. Wise sayings and poetic verses usually adorn such types of Kawafi.

“Most people who wear it are seekers of knowledge, such as those studying Islamic Sharia or those about to receive their academic license,” Jahhaf explained.

“Boys begin wearing Al-Emama and a jambiyya at age 15. This sometimes happens at special parties and means the boy has moved from childhood to adulthood,” she added.

Kufya (Mu'araaq)

Worn under qa-weq, it's called Mu'araaq because of what it does. Mu'araq is the Arabic word for sweat, so as it's placed under qa-weq, it dries the sweat. It's made of fabric filled with cotton and stitched at the fabric edges. “Children and school students wear such type of kufya,” Jahhaf noted.

In the Tihama, Kawfi (plural of kufya) are made of white cotton sewn by needle with a particular type of knot. Called Awazel (insulation), they're usually worn under another type of head covering to separate between sweat and other head coverings. “If we wrap white gauze around this type of kufya, it's called a Tihami Emama,” Jahhaf explained.

Al-Qub'a, also called sumata, is a head cloth made of dyed cotton and worn by tribes living in Sana'a. It previously was called sibghya (dyed cloth), but now it's called sumata. The man who wears it is called Muqaba'a.

Kufya Al-Khyzaran is a head covering made of canes belonging to the Tihama region. Kufya Al-Khyzaran is made of bamboo sticks broken into very slight sticks and worn in eastern Tihama. When moistened, they become flexible.

“You can fix them one beside the other. Consequently, people sew them together using other slight sticks of bamboo to make kufya. There's a hole at the top of the kufya. This type of kufya is famous in Asalm in Sana'a,” Jahhaf pointed out.

“Religious scholars wear them by wrapping a piece of white fabric around it. However, its name is changed to Mashada,” she added.

Additionally, Kufya Al-Khyzaran's qihf is adorned with red bamboo sticks.

Al-Emama Al-Sultanya (sultan) is especially for sultans in southern Yemen, particularly in Lahj. Dasmal is a long shawl made of natural silk, embellished and embroidered, and wrapped around the white cotton kufya.

Coastal regions

Both men and women in the Tihama wear a type of hat called a Dhulla. The men's Dhulla has wide edges, a longer cone and is free of any kind of ornament, while the edges of the women's Dhulla are ornamented.

“A bride's Dhulla is the most decorated. The cost of these Dhullal varies according to the raw materials used. The most expensive material is canes, while the cheapest is palm leaves,” Jahhaf explained.

“In Al-Mahabsha and Al-Sharafya cities in and around Hajja, the women's Dhulla has improved gradually in terms of size and raw materials used,” she added.

Both the men's and women's Dhullal are used for a specific purpose, which is to protect the wearer from the sun. However, women's Dhullal has come to be used so much more for decoration that its size has minimized to decorate her head rather than protect her from the sun.

“The price for such a small Dhulla is unbelievable. In Ibb in Taiz, the canes of a Dhulla are made into a type of a fold consisting of several pleats shaped like chains or circles, one inside the other, in a very accurate way. As a result of making it so perfectly, it's hard for drops of water to leak when placed inside it,” Jahhaf explained.

Types of Maqarim Yemeni women wear

Maqarim, also called Sarimya, is a piece of fabric covering a woman's head and neck. Women sometimes wrap it a particular way so it can veil her face. Black with a red line at the edge, its length is approximately a meter and a half, while its width is about half a meter.

“It's dyed in Hodeidah in Beit Audarus. It was the only dye house in Yemen,” Jahhaf added. When Maqarama (the singular) is worn as a veil around a woman's face, it's called Sarimya. This name comes from the strict features a woman has when wearing it, according to Jahhaf.


Al-Tarha is made of light transparent silk and worn in Sana'a. The name Al-Tarha may be derived from the softness and delicateness of the fabric. Married Sana'ani women wear it on festive occasions with Al-Masar Al-Tali'a, which is made of jersey cotton.

It begins with folding a square to make a triangular shape. Then it's wrapped onto a piece of cardboard in the form of a crown (half circle). After wrapping the fabric, the edges of the fabric can be tied around the head.

Al-Masar Al-Nazili

Worn under Al-Masar Al-Tali'a, this is a soft, tight, square-shaped piece of silk folded into a triangular shape and then their edges can be tied around the neck up to the head.

“If a woman is past age 30, she wears Al-Masar Al-Nazili, Al-Maqrama and Al-Esaba. However, below age 30, she wears Al-Masar Al-Nazili and Al-Esaba. On Al-Esaba, gold faratiq (like broaches) are affixed at the front beside each other. Al-Masar Al-Nazili's color matches Al-Esaba's and both coordinate with the dress color,” Jahhaf noted.


Al-Qinaa is a kind of piece of cloth piece approximately a meter and a half long and a meter wide made of silk and embroidered with gold thread. It often takes the shape of birds or plants. “There is a qinaa called Al-Taoos (peacock), which gives a sense of splendor to the one who wears it,” Jahhaf commented.

Sana'ani brides wear it on the Naqsh day, while mothers who give birth wear it during their walida (the 40 days a mother remains in her room as a celebration of giving birth).


Al-Qasheeta is a piece of fabric embroidered with glittering threads. It is a rectangular form affixed onto a triangular piece of fabric and gold tassels hang from Al-Qasheeta's edges.

“Mothers wear it at walida parties. However, the belief that Al-Qasheeta is a crown was substituted by Al-Qunbuee when its size decreased. I think Al-Qasheeta underdeveloped in terms of adornment, as artificial flowers were substituted for natural ones and natural corals by artificial ones,” Jahhaf explained.

Usba is worn with tasja and furrada. Tasja is a type of handmade tape woven with silk thread. It's approximately 10 cm. wide and a meter long. Woman wear Al-Masar, then Al-Qasheeta and Al-Furrada, a kind of a piece of white cotton or gauze with athabat (tassels) made of gold silk thread affixed at its edges.

“Not just anyone can wear them in an appropriate way – only a specialized woman with experience in how they were worn in the past. She is called Al-Sharya'a,” Jahhaf noted.

Al-Maqrama Al-Mahdhya

This type of scarf is seen in several Yemeni regions such as Sana'a, Hajja and Hadramout, where it's most famous. It's a simple scarf made of cotton and pointed with athabat.


Well known in Shabwa, Al-Ridda is made of cotton and woven by hand. “It's said that people used to place the cotton on their knees and then weave such a scarf; however, I don't know the exact way of weaving it,” Jahhaf commented.

Born in 1963, Jahhaf studied philosophy at Sana'a University. After teaching for a year, she became a researcher at the Studies and Research Center, after which she worked at the Historical Cities Institution.

She established a center called Sana'ani Life, as well as the Women's Development Center for Traditional Heritage. Jahhaf is a member of the Yemeni Writers Union, the Yemeni Women's Union and the Yemeni Philosophical Association.