Batoolah, or traditional face cover for woman, made from fabric with a metallic copper-like shine
20th century
Object Name: Face cover, batoolah
Period: 20th century
Date: 1900-1999
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: 12cm x 21cm, weight: 10g
Medium: cotton,metal thread
Registration Number: QNM.2011.503.5
The batoolah is a cover for a woman’s face and is made from a thick shiny material, or sometimes leather. This one is made from a type of woven cotton (calico) covered in blue dye (indigo), which was then polished to a golden shine.

In Qatar the batoolah is typically rectangular in shape, approximately 16 cm by 8 cm and covers the forehead, nose and chin with two holes for the eyes. It is lined with a light cotton fabric so as not to irritate the skin and has strings on both sides to tie it around the head. Some versions were longer and hung below the chin, and some contained a 2 cm fold in the center where a thin vertical piece of wood was placed to lift it from the face to give room for breathing. It was not usually taken off except to sleep, pray, and at meals when no strange men were present. These days only older women wear the batoolah.
The Qatar Peninsula is surrounded by sea except in the south where it connects with its neighbours from the Arabian Peninsula. For hundreds of years people have shared the land, resources and knowledge inherited from their environment. With no fixed lifestyle in terms of time and place, people moved easily and freely between land and sea for trade, livestock, pearl diving, fishing, and hunting at various times throughout the year. This symbiotic relationship between the people and their environment was represented in the unity of their societies, including the exchange of knowledge, stories and the trading of available goods.

A distinctive characteristic of life on the Qatar Peninsula has long been the close association between the coast and the desert – al barr. Some desert tribes spent several months of the year in coastal cities, setting up semi-permanent residences to participate in pearl diving or fishing. Similarly, coastal residents occasionally moved to al barr during the winter to graze their livestock. This exchange of natural resources and the influence of different environments has contributed to the creation of a unique community.
The presence of British, French and Dutch trading companies in the Gulf from the early 1600s brought uncertainty to the region, with unstable alliances and intense competition over trade routes. As trade flourished, however, the strength of the Arab tribes increased. Many Arab tribes moved from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula to Qatar, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the major towns of the Gulf were founded. Several towns flourished on the Qatari coast, including Huwailah, Khor Hassan, Fuwairat, Ruwaida, Freiha, Al Bidda and Doha. The most notable was Al Zubara which became a hub for the Gulf pearl trade.