Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli spotted this item at a dealer and decidedly bought the piece at an auction in Brussels, Belgium in 2021.
This face mask (burgu) is worn by Bedouin women from the Bani Harb Tribe in Hijaz, the western province of Saudi Arabia.
The mask (burgu) is made of calico cotton and covers the full face from the forehead to below the chin with two almond-shaped cut-outs for the eye slits. The mask is square-shaped folded at the centre with a stitched down boxed pleat at the fold, creating a stiff nose ridge. Two black calico cotton selvedge strips are attached to the top corners of the mask. The strips are 1.5 cm wide by 25 cm long. They help fasten the article onto the face by tying them together at the back.
The mask (burgu) is adorned with varied silver ornaments. The top edge is embellished with one line of twenty individually attached rectangular metal, possibly silver, strips each ending with a small dangling round bell. Fastened to the upper right corner of the mask is a tassel with diamond-shaped pieces of metal that appear to be low grade silver with some light Verdigris on some of the pieces. It extends above the shoulder line, while the upper left corner follows the same example. However, the tassel is placed in a slightly lower position.
At the centre of the mask (burgu) dangling in line with the nose hangs a triangle-shaped metal/silver tassel pendant along with four strings of diamond-shaped pieces of metal/silver ending with small dangling round bells. A fifth string was attached but seems to have been lost.
Silver (talli) bands are hand applied to frame the overall shape of the (burgu) and eye openings, with additional silver talli bands filling in both cheek areas. Lead beads (sawgh) frame the outer edges creating the hemline, and more are repeated within the centre of the cheek areas.
The remnants of a few red-dyed lead (sawgh) beads are still fixed along the red cotton thread frame at the centre of each cheek area. At the lower right corner is a metal ornament in the shape of a multi-leafed flower or sun with a red piece of glass or stone set in the centre. It is likely that at some point there would have been a matching ornament on the left side.
Dangling on the lower edge of the mask (burgu) are four silver Ottoman coins which have been over-stamped with the Islamic date of 1327 which is the year 1909 in the Gregorian calendar.
Traditionally, the decoration on the face mask (burgu) indicates which tribe a woman belonged to, where she lived, as well as her financial and social status.