A Qatari Man and His Kashkha
By Yousra Samir
I don't think there is an actual single word in the English dictionary to define the word "kashkha". It's a word in the Gulf dialect you will hear Qatari teenagers and young adults say often. By telling someone they are kashkha, you are giving them the ultimate compliment; you are telling them that not only are they classy, have good taste, are trendy or well-dressed, but you are suggesting that their appearance is immaculate.
By telling someone they are kashkha, you are giving them the ultimate compliment.
And this is what many appearance-conscious young men and women in Qatari society strive for. This does not mean they are superficial, no, but they are a nation of people who are experts in self-grooming. And what is wrong with looking after how you look?
Qatari men, perhaps even more than Qatari women, do their best to look kashkha. In stark contrast to their forefathers who lived in the desert or on the coast and in the time before oil had no time to think about looking kashkha except for their wedding day, as their primary concern was earning a livelihood, today's Qatari male is a metrosexual.
Feminine? Oh no...
The average young Qatari man is sensitive about the subject of their masculinity and will do all he can to appear as manly as possible. However, many of them are so confident in their masculinity that they do not find the idea of having facials or using facial creams threatening.
If you want to see a kashkha Qatari man, just go to Landmark where you will find some of the most kashkha men in Qatar. With their starch-pressed thowbs, carefully angled ghetras, dark sunglasses and confident, upright walks, on appearance they can seem intimidating, but don't feel intimidated, it is just an exterior front. While a few Qatari men genuinely believe they are the coolest men since Brad Pitt, most of them are normal, down-to-earth guys.
If you want to see a kashkha Qatari man, just go to Landmark where you will find some of the most kashkha men in Qatar.
To be kashkha, a Qatari man has to have his kashkha. I promise I'm not trying to confuse you! Kashkha also means the things that make one kashkha, from a carefully shaped goatee to the classiest watch. Let's have a look into the average Qatari man's wardrobe and dressing table.
As you have probably noticed by now, most Qatari men wear the traditional white thowb, which basically look like floor length, long sleeved dresses. A kashkha thowb is one which is pearly white, starch pressed, with a high, starchy, closed collar, and silver cufflinks on the wrists. For the majority of the year, they wear white to reflect the sun's heat, but in winter, Qatari men wear thowbs in a variety of colours. Black and navy thowbs are considered the most kashkha for winter.
The Ghetra and the Shemaagh
Throughout the year most Qatari men wear a white head cloth known as a ghetra, again because of the sun factor, and in winter they wear the shemaagh, which is the red and white patterned ghetra, or the shaal, an embroidered cream coloured ghetra. A shaal is usually expensive as it is made out of top quality wool. Just as there are brand names for clothes, there are also brand names for thowbs and ghetras.
A ghetra can be wrapped in a number of ways. It may be left down, which Qatari men do in order to be fuss-free, and they usually wear it down when they get married. It may be wrapped in a "bunny ears" style, made popular by the Emir's son Sheikh Jassim, where the two ends of the ghetra are wrapped over the top of the head a bit like floppy rabbit ears!
The most kashkha style is cobra and nus-cobra (half cobra)...
The most kashkha style is cobra and nus-cobra (half cobra), where either one or both ends are carefully positioned to the side of a head which look a bit like a cobra. Ghetras are a fussy business and I always catch Qatari men re-arranging them in car and shop windows! I have on occasion been sitting near the window in a restaurant to find a Qatari man on the other side staring into the window as he fixes his ghetra!
Most Qatari men don't shave at home; they pay a weekly visit to the barber's, which they call the halaag. The most popular facial hair styles are the gufl, which is a moustache and goatee joined at the sides of the mouth so it looks like a lock (gufl means lock), the saksooka, which is a moustache and goatee not joined at the sides of the mouth, the 'aaridh, which is a carefully defined and light beard, and the "dirty", which is supposed to look unkempt, but a lot of effort goes into making it look that way!
When it comes to footwear, men either wear brogues with socks, especially if they are going to work or for a formal, smart occasion, or leather sandals known as na'aal. Again, Qatari men like to go for designer footwear, and there are brand names for na'aal. The most kashkha na'aal are made from real leather or crocskin. You will never see a Qatari man wearing sneakers or trainers, or boots with their thowb (though it would make a good fashion statement!)
Perfumes are essential to every Qatari man. Most Qatari men from a young age are scrupulous about personal hygiene; in my seven and a half years in Qatar I have never come across a Qatari man smelling of body odor!
Unlike Western men who have one or two perfumes or aftershave which they use until they finish, Qatari men have a number of perfumes and for different occasions. If a Qatari man is wearing westernized clothing, which they call badla, or a sporty outfit, they usually wear a light, fresh perfume. If they are wearing thowb and want to be kashkha, they will wear a heavier perfume, from famous brand names. If they have a special occasion such as a wedding or Eid, they will usually wear pure Arabic perfume, known as 'ood. The more concentrated the 'ood the more expensive it is. Basically, many Qatari men smell really good!
Watches, pens and wallets are also essentials. I have noticed that most Qatari men go for Rolex-type watches, or leather watches with large round faces that have multiple dials. Kashkha Qatari men wear designer ballpoint pens in their thowb chest pockets. Wearing a biro pen in your thowb chest pocket is not kashkha!
I have seen Qatari men with gold and diamond encrusted pens in their chest pockets.
I have seen Qatari men with gold and diamond encrusted pens in their chest pockets. Qatari men hold everything in their wallets, money, cards, photographs, bits of paper, so wallets are also important. Again, a kashkha wallet is a designer wallet or is made of real leather. Designer sunglasses are another Qatari male essential and a Qatari man can never have enough sunglasses! Mont Blanc is every Qatari man's haven.
I could go on and on about the different things which make a Qatari man kashkha, but to sum it up, being kashkha lies in immaculate appearance, scrupulous personal hygiene, self-grooming, and detail detail detail. Anyone who first comes to Qatar sees Qatari men as clones, but once you get to know them, you notice the small details which make each Qatari man look different and unique, even if it be the key ring they use or the prayer beads they carry (which, by the way, most Qatari men carry, fiddle with and swing around because of Qatari men historically and traditionally carrying them, not because they actually pray with them!)
Don't misinterpret being kashkha as Qataris showing off their wealth; being kashkha is all about looking good and feeling good and it's also about self-confidence.
Special thanks to Abdulla Al Mannai and Faisal Al Mohannadi for letting me use photos of them looking kashkha!
Listen to the haunting sound of the Adhan, the Muslim Prayer Call.