Men's head cover (ghutrat shaal) made of cashmere typically worn in winter
20th century
Object Name: Head Cover (ghutrat shaal)
Period: 20th century
Date: 1900-1999
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: H:1130-W:1230 Mm
Medium: wool,textile
Registration Number: QNM.2011.65.1
This is a man's winter head cover called ghutra shaal. The name shaal comes from Persian/Urdu and lends its name to the English word shawl. The cashmere used for the ghutrat shaal comes from the soft hair of the underbelly of Kashmiri mountain goats, and it was imported from northern India, possibly through Oman.

It is square shaped cashmere embroided on the frame and four corners with polychrome wool thread. Each corner is decorated with a dark red or black petunia/Botaih or Boteh - the Indian flower design. A wide band of embroidery in the shape of a square surrounds the corner patterns.

The use of this type of ghutrah was widespread throughout the Gulf region and was common among sheikhs and dignitaries. The ghutrah is worn down the shoulder with an agal on top to hold it in place. This type of ghutra is still worn today during winter. During summer, men typically wear a white cotton ghutra.
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.