Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, The Zay Initiative founder was initially contacted on Instagram by Mariam Khalfan Mohammed Khalifah al Maydi al Badwawi, who offered to volunteer and help source old artifacts from the Northern Emirates for the Zay Collection. Mariam has been an invaluable addition to our team, as she connects easily with people and patiently explains our role, convincing others to help the cause. This (kandurah_arabiyah khwar_zari) is one of her finds.
Mariam came across this article together with a few more from the late Mohammed ‘Ayish al Qaydi, who passed away in the 1990s. Fortunately, his family held on to them and were willing to sell them to The Zay Initiative.
Historically, the (‘igal) was used to tie the legs of the camel to pin it down to the ground. Together with the headdress (kufiyah) or (shmagh), both can be traced back to Semitic and Middle Eastern civilisations based on old Babylon artifacts such as Elamite coins and figures and even in ancient Arabian kingdoms, and dated through antiquities including bas-reliefs and statues going back to ancient times.
This two-looped coil of black braided cord (‘igal) is worn doubled and used to keep the male headdress (ghutrah) in place on the wearer’s head. It is heavy and coarse enough to keep a grip on the (ghutrah) and prevent it from slipping. The diameter of the (‘igal) is smaller than the head, thus the weight is essential to hold it centred on top of the head.
At the back some versions might have one or two long cords ending with a tassel, I this example, uncharacteristically, metal silver chains ending with three dangling silver balls are used.
Customarily made of goats’ wool, where the most expensive forms are those made of Iraqi wool, and the more affordable ones are made of synthetic yarn. Mostly black in colour as is the case in this example, however, brown, white (worn by religious clerics) red, and gilded versions are known as (Shatfah).