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From To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise by Ely B. Soane, 1912.
In dress they have always been fantastic, and I cannot do better than quote from travellers the style of the Kurds of a hundred and of seventy years ago;—
“In front, on a small, lean, and jaded horse, rode a tall, gaunt figure, dressed in all the tawdry garments sanctioned by Kurdish taste. A turban of wonderful capacity, and almost taking within its dimensions horse and rider, buried his head, which seemed to escape by a miracle being driven in between his shoulders by the enormous pressure. From the centre of this mass of many-coloured rags rose a high conical cap of white felt. This load appeared to give an unsteady rolling gait to the thin carcase below, which could with difficulty support it. A most capacious pair of claret-coloured trousers bulged out from the sides of the horse, and well-nigh stretched from side to side of the ravine. Every shade of red and yellow was displayed in his embroidered jacket and cloak; and in his girdle were weapons of extraordinary size, and most fanciful workmanship.”
The following refers to the dress of the northern Mukri Kurds, south of Urumia:—
“On their heads they wear a large shawl of striped silk, red, white, and blue, with fringed ends, which is wound in the most graceful manner round their red skull-cap. Its ample folds are confined with some sort of band, and the long fringes hang down with a rich fantastic wildness; their true Saracenic features, and bright black eyes, gleam with peculiar lustre from under this head-tire. Their body garments consist of a sort of ample vest and gown, with magnificent wide Turkish sleeves, over which is worn a jacket, often richly embroidered and furred, according to the owner’s rank. Their lower man is enveloped in ample shulwars, not unlike those of the Mamlucs, into which, in riding, they stuff the skirts of their more flowing garments. Around their waist, instead of a shawl, they wear a girdle fastened with monstrous silver clasps, which may be ornamented according to the owner’s taste with jewels, and in which they stick not only their Kurdish dagger, but a pair of great brass or silver-knobbed pistols. From this, too, hang sundry powder-horns and shot- cases, cartridge-boxes, etc, and over all they cast a sort of cloak or abba, of camel’s hair, white, or black, or striped white, brown, and black, clasped on the breast, and floating picturesquely behind.”
The costume here described has changed not at all, except perhaps that the big pistols have given place to revolvers, and a carbine swings over the shoulder, four and sometimes even five rows of cartridge-belts, one above the other, encircling the horseman’s body.
Of the southern Sulaimanian and Jaf, J. C. Rich gave the following description:—
“His gown was of a rich flowered gold Indian stuff; he had a superb cashmere shawl, ornamented with gold fringe, on his head, put on in a wild, loose manner; his upper dress was a capot, or cloak of crimson Venetian cloth, with rich gold frogs, or bosses, on it.
"The Jaf men wore a dress belted round their middles, light drawers, with the worsted shoe, which is a comfortable covering for the feet, and a conical felt cap on their heads.”
Describing the costume of the northern Hakkari, Binder, a modern traveller, says:— " ils... se coiffent d’un bonnet de feutre blanc conique autour duquel ils enroulent d’enormes turbans; leur pantalon, d’une largeur demesurée, est en tissu de poil de chèvre rouge et souvent bariolé de dessins; ils portent une petite jaquette descendant à peine à la taille, pardessus laquelle ils mettent souvent un manteau, pas plus long que la jaquette en poil de chèvre, garni sur le devant de grossières passementeries; comme chaussures, ils ont des bottes en cuir rouge, avec de fortes ferrures au talon.”
The Mukri and Rawanduz Kurds have exchanged the pointed white cap for one in green, and of cloth, and not so high, but with a little stiff tassel sticking up from the point. The turban is smaller, and wound so that the fringes conceal both sides of the face. They have adopted the Persian “qaba,” a short tunic not reaching to the knee, and over it often wear the “sardari” or plaited frock-coat, but made in a bright-coloured velvet.
As one comes south the dress becomes more like that of the Arab. The workmanlike costume of the north, where the man is, so to speak, in his shirt-sleeves all the time, is replaced by a long tunic reaching to the ankles, over a white shirt, the sleeves of which, made like “bishop-sleeves,” touch the ground. A “salta” or zouave jacket is worn, generally of some sober-coloured cloth ornamented with gold-thread work, and according to the tribe different kinds of turbans are worn, the skull-cap usually being of cotton cloth embroidered.
In addition to this costume all tribes of the south wear the typical Kurdish felt waistcoat, which is sleeveless, and about half an inch thick.
It may be said that in the south the Kurd has preserved no prejudices in the matter of dress, except the turban, which is his distinguishing feature.
The costume of the women is simple. In the north, a long coloured shirt, and full trousers, or full skirts, supplemented in cold weather by more shirts, and perhaps a felt, constitutes the dress. A large turban is worn.
In central and southern Kurdistan, however, the dress becomes more complicated. The Mukri and Sina women enjoy the reputation of wearing the biggest turbans of any tribes, huge masses of coloured silk handkerchiefs cocked to one side. Earrings, bracelets, strings of gold coins around their foreheads, are all common enough features of their dress. Among the Mukri the women often wear the “sardari,” and if not that, the “charukhia,” a kind of heavy cloth thrown over one shoulder.
The veil is absolutely unknown to the Kurds, and the women never hide their faces.
The dress adopted by the Sulaimania women is, while Kurdish in character, yet influenced by the Arab style.
The underclothes are a short shirt and baggy trousers, the upper parts of which are made of white cotton and the lower of some striped material. Over this is a long shirt reaching to the feet, with small bishop-sleeves of white cotton, and open at the neck. Over this again is the “kawa,” a long coat—also reaching to the feet—buttonless, not meeting at the front, of some heavier stuff, the sleeves of which are tight, but slit on the inner side for a few inches from the wrist.
The headgear consists of, first, a little ornamented skull-cap, over which is thrown the “jamana,” a coloured handkerchief, which hangs behind and is often brought once round the neck. The Kurdish turban has given place to a long thick cord with pieces of black cloth fastened in it, in contact with one another, making an apparatus more like a “boa” than anything else. This, the “pushin,” is wound round the head over the jamana, and the costume altogether is graceful and dignified, particularly when the wearer is tall, as are most of the women of Sulaimania.
Soane, Ely B. To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise. Small, Maynard and Company, 1912.
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