The mysterious masked women of Iran

Source: BBC

By Rodolfo Contreras

A jumble of cultures

The people in Hormozagan province on Iran’s southern cost are known as Bandari (Port People). Once an important stop on the Spice Route, the area has been a centre for trading since around BC2000, resulting in a jumble of ethnicities and cultures, including African, Arab, Indian and Persian. Most locals wear different attire from other provinces of Iran, with women often sporting colourful dresses instead of the typical black chador, and men in Arab-style clothing. But the boregheh (masks) worn by many Bandari women, both Sunni and Shia, are probably the most striking of all.

An ancient tradition

Bandari women have been wearing masks for centuries. The roots of the tradition are unknown, although some say that it started during Portuguese rule, when women were trying to avoid recognition by slave masters looking for pretty girls.

Hot Gulf summers

As well as being part of their religion and culture, the masks also protect the eyes and skin from the sun, which can be very strong in the Persian Gulf. In fact, similar masks can be found around the region, in Oman, Kuwait and other parts of Arabian Peninsula.

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