As those of you who regularly read my blog know, since its inception Ive had an ongoing series detailing the traditional attires of the many different cultural groups in Iran and the Persian/Persianized groups in Central Asia. I do this series because there is so much misinformation out there, people just do not realize how ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse Iran is and about the different styles of cultural dress which is worn in the country.
This post will focus on the dress of the Iranian peoples of the southern coast line in Hormozagan province whom are known as “Bandari” (port people).
The province of Hormozagan is in the far south, along the Persian Gulf. It consists of a part of the mainland and several islands off of the coast…the largest of which is called Qeshm. As you can see, Hormozagan is closer to Oman, UAE, Bahran and Saudi Arabia than it is to Tehran or the Caspian sea! The peoples of this province are known for being extremely ethnically and racially mixed! Most are a mix of Arab, African, Persian, Balooch, Baktiari, Indian, and probably more! This is due to the regions history as a center of trade since pre-history and there has always been a great deal of movement between areas since modern times! The culture of the province has a distinctive “Khaleeji” flavor which has more in common with traditional Omani, Eastern Provinces Saudi, Emirate and Bahraini culture than the rest of Iran! The peoples themselves speak an interesting dialect of Persian which is freely mixed with Arabic, Somali, Balooch, and Bakhtiari Persian! IN some areas a Khaleeji dialect of Arabic is the predominantly “home” language.
Both the traditional mens and womens attire is almost the same as what used to be considered traditional clothing in UAE, the EP of Saudi, and Oman! The womens dress styles do vary slightly depending on which part of Hormozagan province they are from. In some areas they wear a long gown with a printed rectangular chador thrown over the body like a large shawl, in others they wear someone similar to a shalwar kameeze but with skin-tight, heavily embroidered pants and a rectangular chador worn quite similarly to ho women in the Sudan wear their thobe (the outter sheet)! Traditionally the women wear niqab or “gatwiyyeh” and favor either the traditional mask-style niqabs, the more modern Gulf niqab or just a piece of cloth thrown over the face. two summers ago when my family visited Shiraz to see Persepolis we all were quite fascinated with these women walking around in their traditional bandari attire! To say they stood out like colorful peacocks is an understatement and coming from Saudi we could instantly see the similarities between their attire and what we saw the elderly women on Tarut island and the villages around Saihat along the Gulf coast wearing.
On Qeshm island the women seem to favor the gold mask-style of niqab (burqa) which is similar to the styles worn around the Gulf traditionally. The women on Qeshm adopt the burqa at puberty is they come from a family where they are worn and their style tends to be the shalwar kameeze-like outfit with the snug pants and a rectangular chador wrapped over that.
(A Qeshm woman hand embroidering the traditional snug-fitting shalvar which the women wear)
The children wear similar outfits as the adults…but the girls dont wear a burqa or *generally* the rectangular chador. Just a semi-sheer scarf of some sort. Similar to the traditional little girls attire in the rest of the Gulf states.
The women in other parts of Hormozagan province wear a very thick, heavily embroidered mask instead of the thinner, gold burqa. I’m not sure about the history of this style or how/why it developed or in which parts of the province this style is favored over the other one mentioned above. These women, atleast from what I saw in Shiraz tend to wear a long gown with a rectangular chador casually thrown over themselves as an extra topper, unlike the Qeshm where the rectangular chador is worn over the top and pants ensemble and worn just with the burqa, in place of an scarf.
Yes what I call multi-tasking…(yes, in Iran, smoking nargileh is considered-traditionally, OK for women, it was historically seen as a female past-time…men did not openly smoke nargileh in public. Only recently-0since the revolution has it become kind of taboo for womenn to smoke nargileh and for it to become an openly male thing to do! But, in many villages around Iran, the older women will still congregate in the afternoons with tea, sweets and nargileh to pass the time!)
The men in Hormozagan province wear attire which is almost identical to whats worn by men in UAE and Oman. either a thobe and a scarf (shmag) or a “vizaar” and shirt with a scarf.
In addition to the traditional burqa styles…some Bandari women have adopted the modern pan-Gulf/pan-Middle eastern niqab as travel and work between the Bandari region and the rest of the Gulf continues as it always has…