Thobe, Shemagh & Agal

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

 شماغ ، عقال‎ , ثوب‎
Thobe, Shemagh & Agal

Since I wrote a post about women’s clothing here in Saudi Arabia I thought that it was only fair to also show you the traditional style for men.

I really want everyone to realize that muslim men are also supposed to dress modestly and behave modestly. I think you’ll be able to better see this in the traditional clothing that many men wear here. You’ll see this style every time you go out.

Men here wear a ثوب thobe (which means “dress” in English). A typical thobe is made from a white material. There are different types of collars, cuffs and sometimes colors. Men may choose to wear a darker colored thobe in the winter months, but white is most common all year round.

8740848202673 hartensteinabroad Saudi and Jordan Men's Fashion

The thobe is similar to the abaya, but it doesn’t have snaps down the front like many abaya do. A man will usually go to a tailor and have a few custom thobes made specifically to his measurements.

Men will also wear a شماغ shemagh (which actually doesn’t have a translation in English). It can be compared to a woman’s hijab. It is like a scarf that is worn on the head. However, it doesn’t wrap around to cover the neck.


The shemagh is something worn just placed on the head, it is something folded over a bit and I’ve also seen it worn wrapped around the face in cold or dusty weather (making it more similar to the hijab/niqab). The red and white patterned shemagh is the most common, but you will also see all white ones.

You may have also noticed what looks like black rope that is placed on top of the shemagh. This is an عقال agal (which means “headband” in English)


It is two circles of a rope like material that is placed on top of the shemagh. It keeps the shemagh in place and allows the wearer to fold the shemagh over like you can see in the second picture above. Although, some men choose not to wear the agal at all.

You will not see all men in the Kingdom wearing a thobe, shemagh and agal, but you will see that most Saudi men do. At the same time you will see most foreign men wearing western clothes or clothes from their own countries. Also, the thobe, shemagh and agal are not the only type of Islamic clothing for men. There are other styles, but the idea of modesty is the same.

Thobe-e1311032916277This is an interesting graphic showingsome small differences between the style of thobe, shemagh and agal (which may even have different names) in different Gulf countries. (If you click on the picture you’ll be able to read the text.) From the top left it shows Kuwait, then Oman and then Bahrain. From the bottom left it shows Qatar, then UAE and finally Saudi. 

Muslim men are supposed to cover the area between the navel and the knees. The clothing should be loose enough not to show his shape and thick enough to not show his skin (which is why the thobe is thicker than the abaya and why men wear a white t-shirt and white cotton pants under their thobe). I want others to be aware that there are also dress requirements for muslim men, and while women always seem to receive harsh words for covering their bodies, know that men also have rules.





3 thoughts on “Thobe, Shemagh & Agal

  1. Pingback: Women in the Kingdom: Part 1: What you wear, where. | multiculturaliz

  2. Thank you for a perfectly timed and clearly written post!

    I’m in Australia and going to the semi-final of the Asian Cup: Australia vs United Arab Emirates. It’s going to be a see of green and gold (the Australian colours) because, frankly, no one expected the UAE to beat Japan and get into the semis.

    I have a thobe, shemagh and agal that my brother-in-law bought when he was working in Dubai. I’d like to wear it to the match. Why? Well, I reckon those UAE players will look at this vast green and gold crowd and hopefully see a few people in familiar dress and feel like there’s a least SOMEONE out there on their side.

    But of course I don’t want to upset or offend anyone. Could I do that, just by wearing traditional clothes? I won’t be drinking beer and screaming out and behaving immodestly; I just wanted to show my support for the underdogs.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks, Mark

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