Dress like an Emirati – Learn how to wear the Shemagh or Ghutra
If you want to try some of the traditional clothes UAE locals have enjoyed, the kandura is a great pick. This long robe for men is both comfortable, and one of the most popular styles of clothing for men today. The kandura is often accompanied with a gutrah, which is a traditional UAE headscarf. The gutrah is held in place with an ornate headband called the agal. Wearing a headscarf in the UAE is absolutely necessary, since the sun can be a bit much for sensitive scalps. Most diplomats from the UAE still wear their gutrah when they travel outside of the country, and it’s often considered to be very tasteful to do so by those who live in the UAE.
The UAE head dress is much like those worn in the rest of the GCC countries, but each region in the GCC has it’s own distinctions. There is no significant social or class distinctions when it comes to colors worn. Today, the choice in color of the ghutra (Light all white cotton head dress, also called a Sufra) or Shemagh (Usually red and white checkered) are mostly related to fashion.
Men choose the red one to change the habit of all white, and other colored ones to match their colored dishdashas. It is not strange, especially in winter months, to see men wearing navy blue dishdashas and matching ghutras.
However, as a matter of practicality, the lighter, white colored Sufra is usually worn in the hot summer months, the heavier colored Shemaghs in the colder winter months.
Geographically speaking, it is more likely to see red shemaghs in the KSA than in the UAE, and more likely to see a Shaal, a very heavy multi-colored wool head dress in Oman or the Northern Emirates where the mountain air is cold.
As for how the head dress is worn, there is no specific guide to who may or may not wear it with an agal or as a wrapped turban. The rule of thumb though is that wearing with an Agal is formal, and so you will see it worn mostly at work, weddings, and when older (past 20) men are out. The Wrapped way, also called the Hamdanniyya, is a casual dress, and is hardly ever word at work. It is also the favorable way to wear the head dress for younger boys. However, even a 50 year old may wear a hamdanniyya when in a casual setting. The late Sh. Zayed for example, often wore the Hamdaniya when in casual settings. No gulf head dresses signify a family’s status or a person being married or not.
If you want to wear your Shemagh without using the aghals, simply make a triangle and use the two small-angled corners to wrap them round your head, starting with the back of the head, and around the forehead to fold it back into the beginning of the loop just behind the ears. Do not use the aghals when wearing the keffiyehs in this style.
All Emiratis aged from 5 or 6 onwards wear this traditional clothing.