The origin of this head veil (shaylah) has been lost in the sands of time. Nobody at The Zay Initiative can remember how it came to be in the archive.
This head veil (shaylah) has a handcrafted model of Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque at Medina in Saudi Arabia, featuring its minarets and the large central dome, topped with an exaggerated crescent and star. Up until the 1980s, pilgrims undertaking the hajj bought these veils in Medina as personal souvenirs. They wore them on their return home when entertaining or receiving guests, as evidence of the fulfillment of this personal religious milestone. This style of garment is well known throughout the Muslim world although they are now very rarely seen.
We cannot give the exact object history of this piece as the seller wished to remain anonymous. It was probably made in India and then imported to Dubai via Saudi Arabia around 1979.
The owner, like many people in the region who do not comprehend the documentary value of placing their items within a historical collection, could only be encouraged to sell the item to the Zay Collection following the suggestion that they use the proceeds as a charity (sadaqah), to help build a mosque or school.
The base fabric of the veil (shaylah) is black silk tulle (tur). The silver adornment was applied by hand directly to the fabric. Usually, the silver straw (khus) is about 0.635 cm wide and 46 cm to 61 cm long were threaded onto a flat, wide needle with a similarly flat, wide eye. The strips were then threaded into the mesh, criss-crossed, and flattened by applying pressure with fingernails. This method was also used to make the surrounding silver geometric shapes that represent stars. Once the whole design was finally completed the fabric was stamped down and passed through a roller, to flatten the metal even more.
This veil (shaylah) was designed to be worn at celebrations and special occasions and was draped in such a way that the mosque feature would be draped over the shoulders of the wearer. The silver has tarnished slightly with age.
This is a physical example of the traditional arabic saying (zinah_wa_khazinah), meaning “beauty and wealth in one”. The silver embellishment (mnaghad) which decorated this veil was employed to show status and style but could also be melted down and sold in times of need.