You’ve seen the traditional Arab headdress before. Fashioned from a rectangle scarf usually made of cotton, the ghutra, as it is known (in Arabic, it’s كوفية kūfiyyah), is commonly worn by men in the UAE.
When visiting Dubai, you will soon learn that the ghutra serves many practical purposes and has been a tradition for centuries. The nomadic Bedouin would traverse the desert for days on end and the Arabic headscarves helped protect them against sunburn. Typically, the colour white, the ghutra also kept the Bedouin cool during hot days. Or during cold nights, they would use a thick one for warmth. The ghutra also offers protection against dust and sandstorms, which comes in handy, especially if you go on a desert safari on the outskirts of Dubai.
TYING THE ARABIAN HEADSCARF
- Fold the ghutra
To start, half-fold the ghutra. Do not fold it in half—rather, fold one end to the halfway point.
- Place the ghutra on your head
When you put the ghutra on your head, place the folded half over the top of your head. The unfolded half should be on the back of your head and neck.
- Twist the two ends
There are two ends hanging down over the front of your body. Give both sides two turns moving in the outwards direction (not in toward your body).
- Pull the two ends over your back and cross
It’s time to showcase your flexibility. Pull the two ends over your shoulders and cross them behind your head and neck. Doing this provides the ghutra with the signature bulge at the bottom of the headdress.
- Bring the two ends back to the front
Once the two ends have been twisted and crossed, bring them back to the front side of your body (one dangling over your left side and one over your right side).
- Wrap one end around your head
Now it’s time to really test your coordination. Take one end and wrap it over your forehead and around the back. Tuck and squeeze it into a pocket on the back of your lower head.
Note: Lines, or layers, are important to how the ghutra looks. Great ones can get 10-plus lines, which can be hard for beginners. Try for two lines or layers of cloth for the first end.
- Wrap the second end around your head
The second end is what will be mostly seen by others. Wrap it around in the same manner. Again, try for two lines. Another thing you can do here is slide the end through to create a tail-like appearance on the side.
After that, check the back and front to make sure it all looks all right. Chances are you may need to try this process a few times before getting good. Remember: Practice makes perfect.
On the Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience, the guide will put ghutras on the men and sheilas on the women before the camel ride. Feel like a real Bedouin as you traverse the desert in a traditional camel caravan wearing this traditional headwear.