This traditional headband (shatfah) is part of a two-piece ensemble which also includes a brown and gold cloak (abayah) (ZI2019.500742.1 Syria).
Purchased from a Kerry Taylor auction in 2019, along with an abayah (ZI2019.500742.1 SYRIA), and three headbands (ZI2019.500742.2 SYRIA), (ZI2019.500742.3 SYRIA), (ZI2019.500742.4 SYRIA)
This is a traditional Syrian headband known historically as shatfah, Amiri, (mgassab), (faisaliyah).
This shatfah is handmade in Syria in the traditional way. Bundles of natural brown wool thread form the circular shape to fit around the head, ending with black and gold silk thread and knotted with a twisted brown chord ending with a small burgundy tassel. Silk thread in black and gold tightly wrapped around each bundle at seven points around the band. The parts of wool thread left unwrapped puff out and appear to form eight knot-like nodes, while the tightly wrapped portions look like ribs. This example is less elaborate than others, in that the unwrapped portions are larger than the wrapped sections, also less golden thread was used in the wrapping.
When worn, a man will wrap the shatfah twice around his head over the top of his (shmagh), leaving the ties and tassel hanging behind his neck.
Traditional shatfah headbands are often made of goat or camel hair, or silk threads, with golden threads. The form has remained consistent for generations, as evident from old pictures.
Sources mention that the traditional shatfah originated in Syria, first worn by all classes of Bedouin men. Indeed, pictures taken by travelers in the 18th century confirm this. Later, men from the Arab Gulf region began to adopt the shatfah, specifically in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates, and Bahrain. Given that silk and gold threads are expensive materials, not everyone could afford to wear this item of dress, thus in the Arab Gulf, only men from the wealthy classes wore shatfah.
In the 1960s the traditional Syrian shatfah became associated with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who used to wear a white and gold one on his head, and thus the item is now known colloquially as iqal (faisaly) or faisaliyah.