Omani antique silver Burqa
The amount of silver decoration for the head and hair is remarkable: For example the Halqa ornaments to fasten plaits with young girls. Married women had the Shabqa headdress made of goat leather with silver ornaments and covering the entire head. Most intriguing are of course the Omani masks. In the book "travels of Arabia" by Lieut Wellsted 1837 he gives a detailed description of his travels in Oman, on page 351 he states "in the country females go with their faces uncovered (!); but at Maskat they wear a singular description of veil of an oblong form, about ten inches in length and seven in breadth embroidered with a gold border. In the middle , so as to cross in a vertical direction immediately over the nose , there is a piece of whalebone answering as a stiffener; and on either side of this two small apertures , through which they obtain a view of passing objects"
Ida Pfeiffer when visiting Muscat in 1848 writes " The Muscati women wear a sort of mask in blue fabric held by iron hooks or wire , which does not touch their faces. These masks are cut between the forehead and the nose , so that one can see more than just their eyes. They only put these masks on when they leave their houses; at home and in the vicinity of their dwellings , they do not hide their faces" This description clearly matches the mask shown above. Max von Oppenheim writes in his book vom Mittelmeer zum Perzischen Golf (1900) page 327 "The women are wearing black masks embroidered in the colour Red, Blue, Gold or Silver. In combination with blue or red abaya dresses" Jenny Balfour-Paul writes in "Indigo in the Arab world" 1979 page 141: " In some parts of Oman i.e. in Muscat and the surrounding areas as well as in certain settled parts of the interior , women do not mask their faces at all. But in the rest of Oman there is a clear divide between two distinctive types of mask:
The latter mask links Sohar , on the Batinah coast , with the Gulf shaykdoms to the North , and also with southern Persia and Makran (in Baluchistan) Both types of mask were still sometimes being fashioned from shiny local indigo-dyed fabric in the 1980´s. etc. The burqa is attached to the head by four strings which pass either side of the ears to tie at the back of the head; when not in use it is pushed to the top of the head. Although it is obligatory to wear a mask in the presence of an unmarried man, its use on other occasions is much more flexible, depending on the age and wishes of the wearer and her husband. etc. "
Omani antique silver embroidered Saif Malik mask
Emily Ruete writes in her book Memoirs of an Arabian princess 1886 : "The Arab woman is not allowed to show her face;it is covered with a mask, often at home and always at outings. At this one should not think , however, of the Egyption woman's maks, which is ugly and renders respiration difficult ; our masks were very elegantly made of black satin and trimmed with splendid lace, made from coloured silk, and gold and silver threads. They were in two main parts, joined by a small support; the upper part covered the nose and part of the cheeks. The eyes and the lower part of the face thus remained completely free. The mask was fastened with silk strings interwoven with gold or gold or silver chains which twisted around the head, at the same time kept the headdress in place"