White niqabs and colorful turbans: the traditional clothing of Hejazis

Sekka Editorial | Saudi Arabia | 04.08.2018

In this colorful photo story, Saudi photographer Omar Al Nahdi reconstructs and captures the clothing the people of Hejaz- the western region of Saudi Arabia- and especially the people of Jeddah, have historically and traditionally worn for centuries prior to globalisation. To ensure authenticity and accuracy, Omar referred to historical works such as ‘Jeddah Hikayat Madinah’ by Muhammad Yousef Tarabulsi, to guide him through his reconstruction. 


The photos were taken in Historic Jeddah. Words by Omar, as narrated our editorial team.


Men’s clothing:


Given its geographic location, Hejaz remains the most cosmopolitan region of the kingdom.  The influx of migrants and pilgrims from the Red Sea, and trade with the Levant, Yemen and beyond, has made it a melting pot of cultures, a fact that is reflected in the traditional clothing of Hejazis.



Arguably originally hailing from India, this turban is dubbed both alhalabiya because it was historically made in Halab (Aleppo) in modern day Syria, and abu loza because of the almond-shaped design in its center. The wrap is called labsat aludaba because the turban was wrapped and worn in this manner by scholars. Scholars of the prestigous Al Azhar University in Egypt had their own particular wrap called allabsa almasriyya.



The wrap photographed above is known as labsat alhara, and was worn by the populace more generally, along with a shawl resting on the shoulder known as almasnaf and a shawl wrapped around the waist known as albaksha. The latter was used to keep money and tools.



Workers in the service industry, such as halwa sellers and water distributors, wrapped footahs- colorful plaid textiles- around their waist because many of them hailed from southern Saudi or Yemen, where the footah was commonly worn.


Women’s clothing:


Hejazi women’s traditional everyday clothing mainly came in two variations, depending on the setting the women were in.



Inside the home, women wore a two-piece modest dress known as alkorta, photographed above. On their heads, women wore a two-part headpiece composed of an inner rectangular cloth called almahrama, which was wrapped around the hair to cover most of it, and a long, see-through exterior layer called almodawwara.  Both were predominantly white in color.


Outside the home, women generally wore an abaya and a niqab.



The reason for the niqab’s once white color as opposed to the currently more popular black is attributed to the historic influence of the Levant, where lighter colors have been predominant.


Children’s clothing:



As for the children, young girls wore colorful, modest dresses while the young boys wore thoubs with white pants underneath, like their elders.



Omar Al Nahdi is a Saudi photographer who specializes in photographically documenting Historic Jeddah and the daily life of its people. To view more of his photography or contact him, visit his page on Instagram, or his website .



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