The wrapped pashmina mussar sits like a crown on an Omani man’s head; a powerful symbol representative of the Sultanate’s glorious cultural diversity and national identity.
Mussar turbans and the embroidered caps called kummah are both part of the official Omani traditional dress. However, the mussar is always worn for formal meetings, as it is more formal and wearing it is a sign of respect. It is an essential part of a man’s wedding attire along with the khanjar that is worn around the waist.
Mussar can be tied on the head with or without a kummah beneath it. A kummah gives it a more structured form, but some also prefer to wear them without the kummah. The cloth itself is a luxurious piece of a man’s wardrobe, created from the finest wool fabric, and imported from the Indian state of Kashmir.
It is cut into a square, and embellished with designs that are lead printed using patterns chiselled on wooden tablets. The design is then embroidered using fine threads before the mussar is thoroughly washed to clean it of the lead and other residual material. Finally the finished mussar is packed and ready to be sold.
Men take a lot of time matching their mussar to the colour of their dishdasha, and choosing an appropriate style. The three main styles of the cloth are the Termah, the most common throughout the Sultanate, which features colourful patterns and different patterns; the Al Subaaia Mussar, usually worn in Sur and Dhofar, which is colourful, but made without patterns; and there are two types of Al Saidiya mussar, one of them is blue and its called turban and is worn only by the royal family, and the other one features only one pattern in one colour and can be worn by anyone.
From Muscat and Sur to Salalah, there are several unique ways to tie this beautiful turban. More than mere fashion in the past, the style in which a mussar was worn was a way to identify at a glance what region a man was from. Through the generations, the styles stuck, though these days some men like to experiment with different regional styles as a matter of fashion.
BUY THE BEST
When shopping for a mussar, before a design is even considered, one has to know what material was used and what method was employed for the decorative stitching. Mussars are almost always made using Kashmiri wool, which is sheared from the sheep that inhabit the cold mountains of Kashmir in South Asia and considered to be the most suitable for this craft, thanks to its smooth texture and consistency.
There are many types of Kashmiri wool, though the majority of mussars worn in Oman are made of Pashmina. Pashmina prices ranges from OMR 60 to 450 depending on the quality, which is determined by the smoothness of the extracted wool.
There are several ways of manufacturing the mussar. Omani hand sewn mussar are considered the finest and most beautiful because a specific design will never be repeated twice. The hand stitched hatched strings have pristine accuracy creating total cohesion of the threads that emphasise the elaborate designs when worn. Because of the effort and time spent, mussar made by hand are the most expensive.
Machine stitched mussars are much easier to produce and significantly less expensive, though the mass produced mussars all feature the same designs. Printing mussars are considered to be the lowest quality as the quality of the printed design is often defective and the engraving wears and loses colour quickly.
Popular and Common style
The common style of tying the mussar throughout Oman has many variations of lines and folds at the temple. It always covers the ears and features a triangular tail at the back. It is known to be the easiest and most customizable way of wrapping. See the infographic on page 22 to see how.
One of the most interesting and identifiable styles comes from the coastal city of Sur. With a triple fold at the temple and the ears left exposed, whether worn with or without a kummah for structure, the end result is a very suave and composed look. The tail is tied in such a way that it folds upwards at the back of the head or the end of the mussar can be draped over the shoulders during formal occasions.
Mostly worn in Muscat and especially popular with those of Balushi origins.
The turban covers the ears with a tail at the back of the head, sharing the same position and folding style at the temple as the popular style, but fitted tighter with more
This style of southern Oman also has many variations including tying the turban and keeping a part of it draped across the neck, or tying it and draping the corner over the head. For the Dhofar style, ears are kept uncovered and the mussar is typically colourful but without inscriptions.
Ramz Alanaqa Mussar Shop
Mazin Al Balushi and Jasim Al Balushi opened their shop, Ramz Alanaqa, which means “Symbol of Elegance,” in Muttrah last year. The pair specialise in modern and traditional mussar styling, and rather than just selling the cloth, they aim to create distinctive looks for their clientele by choosing the perfect colour and teaching them new ways of styling the headdress in preparation for special occasions, weddings, religious ceremonies, and social events.
Ramz Alanaqa, Muttrah, Muscat
Contact: +968 9913 8995
Timing: 10a to 12pm – 5pm to 10pm