The kuma and massar, two forms of headdress, are both a large part of Omani men’s national dress. Because of the sultan’s work to maintain the cultural heritage of Oman, people not only wear these traditional garments often, but are incredibly proud of them and the patriotism they represent. It is common throughout the Middle East to see men wearing headdresses, but depending on the region, you will find great variations in style and form. The kuma is a specially sized (as opposed to one size fits all) hand-embroidered cap that has small holes throughout the embroidery which help keep the head cool in the hot Omani sun. It is believed to have originated in Zanzibar, a former colony of Oman which is now a semi-autonomous island of the east African country Tanzania. The massar is an embroidered wool turban which is worn tied neatly around the head. Some tie it over a kuma to give the massar more structure. It is made in Kashmir, India and imported into Oman. In Oman, men will cover their heads for prayer and many men will wear a headdress daily. Throughout the muslim world, the prayer cap remains a prominent reminder of faith and the universal qualities of humility and respect. When people think of Islam, often their perception is limited to the head scarf worn by women, but in fact, in many conservative communities, men’s prayer caps are almost just as common. The difference from women’s head coverings is that the Quran does not obligate the use of men’s prayer caps. The prophet Mohammed and his followers wore prayer caps, so this tradition has been handed down over generations and has been adapted in unique ways into local cultures, producing a great variety of caps around the Islamic world. Around Eastern Europe, many members of the Muslim community wear black berets, as opposed to the felt, cylindrical, fez hat, as they would in North Africa. In Afghanistan, men wear a floppy, wool beret called a pakol. The checkered cotton square scarf called keffiyeh has always been important in the region of Jordan, Iraq, and the gulf among local farmers as a way to protect their faces from sun and dust. It was later adopted and became known as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. Oman is the only gulf country with its own distinct type of cap. Whereas most of the gulf men wear the draped scarf tied back with a black rope around their head, Omani men typically wear a Kuma (cap) or an embroidered woolen turban called the massar, as I described above. In west Africa you will often find men wearing a tall circular cap called the kofia. Because of the strong cultural ties to East Africa, Oman shares a very similar style of dress that pulls from these age old traditions. In fact, most Swahili speaking populations such as in Kenya and Tanzania, wear this white cotton cap called a kofia along with a white robe known in Swahili as a kenzu. In the gulf these robes take on a similar form as a dishadasha. Whether it is the tall, stately fez hats of North Africa or even the draped white scarves of the gulf, they along with the other headdresses in their variety are an emblem of Islamic faith and a measure of the span of Islam in the world today.