How to Wear a Ghotra

Although the header of this blog shows my picture in a thobe and ghotra, those who know me know that I don’t wear them very often. And whenever I wear the ghotra, which is usually in a wedding or similar occasions, I face the dilemma of how to wear it. Unlike the necktie, where you are limited to a few choices when it comes to how to tie one and there are guidelines and tutorials on how to do it, there are so many different ways to wear the ghotra and there is no such thing as The Ultimate Ghotra Wearing Guide. However, last week I received an email that showed two dozens styles of ghotra wearing, and I thought I would share some of them here…

Modesty
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Very simple. Just throw one end of the ghotra on the opposite shoulder and you are good to go.

Eagle

Similar to Modesty, only this time you take the other end of the ghotra and left it on the aforementioned shoulder.

Mr. X

Throw both ends of the ghotra onto the opposite shoulder. Suitable for desert trips and cold weather.

VIP

This one is usually sported by ministers and big officials, as well as in weddings and receptions. You just let your ghotra down, probably with some little folds on both sides of the mirzam, which is the area of the ghotra in the middle of the forehead.

Teachers

Again, you let the ghotra down only this time it goes behind your back. It is very simple and makes for easy quick movement, which is why it is perfect for teachers.

Schoolboys

Modern with a traditional touch, this style is popular among students. You bring one end of the ghotra from behind and put it in front of the opposite shoulder, while the other end remains in the back.

Abu Rashed

Named after Khaled Abu Rashed, lawyer of the infamous drifter Abu Kab, who allegedly mastered this style. You through one end of the ghotra above your head while leaving the other end as it is.

Balance

As you can see, this one looks like a scale from the front. You through both ends above the head with a slight angle while leaving space to form what resembles scalepans.

Cobra

This one got very popular in the 90’s, and it gets its name from the highly venomous snake. You need a large amount of starch to preserve that look, and you need to be careful when you move your head because quick moves might destroy it.

Butterfly

Unlike the Cobra which limits the motion range of the neck, probably causing a long lasting pain in the area, this one allows for freer movement. Easy and flexible, it makes for a full view of the face and it has a touch of elegance to it.

Bint al-Bakkar

The name has a historical background that I don’t fully understand, but this style has become one of my favourites lately. Not easy to master, but when done right it is quite steady and looks very nice.

Bonus
Here’s a picture of me and my brother Hassan during a recent engagement party in Hofuf, both sporting Bint al-Bakkar:

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93 thoughts on “How to Wear a Ghotra

  1. I love all the different styles you showed here – I didn’t realize they each had their own fitting name to go with them. I used to have really long hair and it would get caught in knobs or in my armpits or get in the way while driving – do men have the same problems with the ghotras?

    • I just want to say for the record, I think this style of clothing is very sexy. I am not trying to be crass or inappropriate, but men who are styled in this way in the Gulf look great; particularly those who are in shape. My favorite style is the powerful Cobra look. Secondly, the butterfly is also a hot look. My third favorite style is Bint al-Bakkar; very sophisticated. There is sensuality in modesty, something many Americans or Westerners miss when observing the fashion by Arabs. How the man walks and glides on a hot or cooler sunny day speaks volumes about his style.

      • Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  2. I hate the Cobra. It was all the rage when I was growing up and everyone was supposed to do it. Never could master it, so I simply gave up on wearing the ghutra for the longest time. These days I usually go with “The Teacher” for working hour dress and “The Butterfly” for fancy occasions :)

  3. Given your focus on your sartorial splendour, and also the name of your blog, I hope that you will soon equally focus on your thoughts regarding jeans.

    Unquestionably “The Teacher” is the most comfortable.

  4. Great post! It really is like women with long hair (mine was to my waist before I cut it to a 1″ short style–people didn’t recognize me!). I like the Schoolboys, Teachers, and Eagle.

    The VIP, the Cobra, and the Abu Rashed not so much.

    Way to model the Bint al-Bakkar!

  5. Excellent post Ahmed….and I hope that we will shortly see one for women with the “The Ultimate Hijjab Wearing Guide.” I have also seen hijjabs worn in differing styles all over the Kingdom and among the Saudi women too.

  6. very nice post…..i used to think that these styles are specific for a perticular region or tribe…btw i liked the student and the butterfly..

  7. A very intuitive post. Never knew there were so much styles to go for.

    I’m enjoying your writings, keep it up. I’ve lived in Riyadh on & off for about 3 years, so I can pretty much relate to some points you are talking about.

  8. Nice,
    I just discovered that my brother is a Cobra (and still living in the 90’s) – nice job – I am sending this compilation to my friends.

  9. Since I do not wear them very much, my only style is VIP, since I cannot do anything with them.

    It is interesting to know, that where I am from, my grandfathers generation did not wear a ghutra, but from my father’s generation, it was mandatory.

    One of the Sheiks of the UAE, the car racing Maktoom, said that a thoub (or in his case a “Dishdasha”) only was like jeans and a t-shirt, but put the ghutra (not sure if they call it something else) and it is like wearing a suit.

    Good one, would’ve been interesting to put the cartoon from a few years ago also which illustrated all the styles also.

    Cheers

  10. I do agree with Xavier you forgot the very classic style: Talal’s style. How come! it is the best man… but yeah Aod in this excerpt is amazing ;)

  11. Or you could just not wear it at all in the hope that you can pass off as any other nationality but that of a misogynistic, backward, barbaric, filthy cesspool of a country that is Saudi Arabia.

    Allah’u’Akbar!

    ps now do as the Saudi government and censor this comment. Oh and don’t forget to beat your women today.

    • havent you looked at ur own back yard why wont you beat your women we do not need too lol you crack me up with your name too you are so anti its not funny if you had to comment like that this isnt the correct site for u peace out

  12. OMG…the student… now i miss how i do that in school T__T thanks Ahmed for sharing it to us. Now you showed us this, i’ll prolly wear a thobe this winter insha allah.

  13. Thanks for posting this. I was unaware of the degree of individual expression which was possible and even fashionable with this style of clothing.

    Most of us really don’t know anything about Saudi culture here in the States, so this little bit of information you’ve given us here contributes substantially, and it seems very positive.

    Best regards!

  14. Hooray for racism, and all the idiots that are posting messages based upon their ignorant generalizations that really have nothing to do with the article at all.

    If you don’t like seeing world culture or clothing, I suggest you stick to your tightly knit shell and only peep out every now and then to see if the world has left you in its dust.

  15. Personally, I think these are awesome. I have told my wife and daughter that some day we will move to Saudi Arabia, where they will learn to respect men and my new wives as well.

  16. wow thanks for that i never knew you could wear it in such different ways..i’ve seen different styles, i just never realised they were actually different styles lol if u know what i mean. good post

  17. Ahmed, After reading (ok studying) this post, I have spent the last few days really paying attention to all the ways guys flip, flop, roll, tuck and wear their ghuptras and it has been such fun! I knew there were different ways, but never bothered to really make sense of them – thanks to you I have!

    My hubby has agreed to be my model this weekend to see how many ways we can come up with! Yeah – bored expat during Ramadan!

    Take care
    SGIME

    • I am glad you noticed this too. I thought it was just me or I thought it was some kind of photoshop of a head on a body.
      You should make a Saudi Bobble Head you would make millions.

  18. really interesting article, after spending a year over in that part of the world I did not realize that much thought went into those, where I was I think they were referred to as shemagh. After spending the time in the heat and climate I obtained a deep respect for these simple but effective styles of garments worn by your culture.

    Have a safe and happy Ramadan and enjoy the Eid.

  19. Ahmed: Now you have to do a post on the finer points (no pun) of the mirzam! I’ve spent many an amused hour watching Saudis perfect the creases and bends of them.

    There may be as many different styles as of the ghutra itself.

  20. You know I love reading your blog, and all of the comments (even the shitty ones) cuz its all good, people are people sahh? I love that this stuff is getting discussed somewhere! Keep it up, man, I think its helping people to get by in the KSA reality (me for sure).

  21. OMG, really the head is enorrrrrrrrrrrmouuuuuussssssssss…..humongouuuuuus…Is Is he sick?…maybe he is suffering from Hydrocephalus!!!!Are all face of Saudi men like this…scary…

  22. I hate the Cobra. It was all the rage when I was growing up and everyone was supposed to do it. Never could master it, so I simply gave up on wearing the ghutra for the longest time. These days I usually go with “The Teacher” for working hour dress and “The Butterfly” for fancy occasions :)

  23. Very educational, thanks for all photos.

    I linked your site to my blog in Japan to introduce Gulf region fashion.

  24. Ok I wear a shamgh everyday. I love to make it pointy, but I don’t know the “Saudi” way. I just iron it with starch. is this how you do it?

  25. I’ve been facinated with the ghotra ever since I could remember, and now I wear it more often than I care to say! I was wondering if you still had that email with the two dozen or so styles of wearing the ghotra, because I might be going to the UAE in the next 6 to 12 months, and I want to be prepared. If so, would you be able to forward it to my email address???

  26. hey could you give more styles? i have one but without ghotrah, i am learning arabic and though i look very egyptian (as told by all my friends from iraq saudi ect..) i do not live anywhere close to a arab store and i would love to know how to wear my keffiyeh in different styles.

  27. What a pity!He glared at Bill, ready to teach him a lesson.Forget it!Tom’s birthday is this weekDon’t let me down.We should not only know the theory but also how to apply it to practice.If only I could fly.Let me explain why I was lateHe can’t take a joke.This is a little something for you.

  28. Salaams,

    Which of these brands do Saudi Men prefer. Projeh Shemgahs or Al Bassam Shemagh. Which is better and why?

  29. Reblogged this on Al-Must'arib (a vocational Mossarab's notes) and commented:
    I’ve got 3 or 4 guthras (shemaghs, keffiyehs,…) at home , a Palestine made, a jordan burgundy and a white saudi. Also one of those I’ve seen lately in the neck of the syrian rebels, combining black or orange with white and brown. I liked to wear them as a neck scarf here in Spain, of course, and I wore it in Egypt, in a style that at the time was disliked for locals as 2non-traditional” and even “offensive to our ways”, as I was told. For sure, here in Spain I’d never wear a headscarf, out of the Moors and Christians Festival, here in my hometown, but if I could travel to the gulf I’d learn how o wear it properly. From the selection on this post I’d take the butterfly and the student’s look. and yeah, also the X-man,… for me the most interesting, as far as it takes you to the desert just looking at it. yep… I don’t want to get more complaints about my profile pic! :D

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