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Men Head Wear

Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 21.07.2006:

Until the 1930s, men’s head wear was a clear marker of the major divisions of Palestinian society: men were most immediately recognizable as townsmen, villagers or bedouin by what they wore on their heads. Head wear also proclaimed religious affiliation, political positions and wealth, and possibly also regional origins.

The head wear of villagers was the most complicated, and had the greatest range of significance. It comprised several layers. The first was a white cotton skull cap (taqiyeh, or ‘araqiyeh meaning ‘sweat cap’). Over this was placed a white or grey felt cap (libbadeh or kubb’ah), and over that in turn a red felt hat (tarbush maghribi) with a floppy black or navy blue silk or cotton tassel (dubbahah or sharbush) attached to the crown. In contrast to the tarbush istambuli worn by Ottoman officials, Turkish soldiers and urban Palestinians, which was tall, stiff and shaped like an upturned flowerpot, the village tarbush was small, soft and rounded at the crown. The purpose of the libbadeh, which was the same shape as the tarbush and fitted neatly inside it, was to bulk it out.

The turban (laffeh) was made from Syrian fabrics of cotton or silk, usually striped or checked in a variety of colors, and with a sparse, tasseled fringe on two edges. First a plain white cloth was wrapped round the tarbush to protect the laffeh from sweat, and probably also to make it look thicker ( a fat turban being prestigious), then the laffeh was wrapped round on top of this so as to leave the crown of the tarbush exposed and enclose the end of the tassel.

A Hierarchy of Miniature Tarbushes and Turbans (laffeh)

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A hierarchy of miniature tarbushes and turbans (laffeh), as worn by adult male villagers until the 1930s.Miniature headdresses were made for sale to tourists and pilgrims.

Top left: green turban and multicolored tarbush, worn by Muslim religious specialists.

Top center: smooth plain white turban on red tarbush, worn by Muslim scholars.

Top right: turban of ghabani fabric on red tarbush, worn by village elders and notables.

Center left: orange/yellow turban on red tarbush, worn by Muslim and Christian villagers in the Bethlehem region and elsewhere.

Center right: green turban on red tarbush, worn by villagers who belonged to Sufi religious orders.

Bottom: orange/yellow turban on left cap (libbadeh), worn by low-class urban workers such as porters.

Men in Bethlehem:

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Most men and boys are wearing the tall urban-style tarbush istanbuli as a sign of their identification with the town and the ruling elite, rather than the villagers.

A father and his sons in Ramallah wearing the Palestinian costume:

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A father and his sons in Ramallah wearing the Palestinian costume.The ornamental tarbushes mean the boys are probably Muslims dressed up for their circumcision ceremony, 1905.

Source: Weir, Shelagh. Palestinian Costume.

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