Royal Hats In Washington: Afghanistan, Oman, UAE and Qatar

We continue an extended 2022 series on different royal hats that have been worn on visits to Washington, D.C. researched and written by Jake Short, longtime reader, hat aficionado (follow him on Instagram or Twitter) and dear friend of Royal Hats. Jake, it’s so great to have you back to continue with the fourth post in this series!  

In the US, when one mentions royalty, the British Royal Family is almost always the first to come to most people’s minds. If not them, then usually it’ll be another European royal family. But of the 29 independent monarchies that exist today (when one groups the UK and Commonwealth realms together), 13 are in Asia, and 7 of those are in the Middle East. Today we will look at the headwear of 3 of these countries: Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But first, let’s take a quick historical look at Afghanistan.


Afghanistan was an Emirate and later a Kingdom until 1973 when a coup d’etat overthrew King Mohammed Zahir Shah while he was out of the country for medical treatments. After the Taliban regime was overthrown in late 2001, Zahir Shah was able to return to Afghanistan, being named “Father of the Nation”, a title he held until his death in 2007 (while not in DC, Zahir Shah can be seen in a karakul hat alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2004).

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In September 1963, the King and Queen Humaira Begum visited DC, first arriving at Langley Field (now Langley Air Force Base) in southeastern Virginia and the Queen was seen wearing a white 1960s style cloche/peach basket hat and sunglasses in the video below. The next day they arrived at the White House for an official welcome ceremony that saw the Queen in a typical 1960s turban and President Kennedy’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver can be seen wearing a subtle netted veil over her hair (First Lady Jackie Kennedy was still recovering after the loss of their newborn son Patrick only a month earlier).


In March 1938, Sultan Said bin Taimur of Oman visited DC and was the first Arab head of state to do so in an official visit. The Sultan arrived at Union Station wearing a colorful and patterned massar turban, and later met Vice President John Nance Gardner wearing the same massar. The massar is distinct to Oman and is quite different from most headwear in the Gulf states; it is usually made of wool (often imported from India) and can be wrapped around the kuma cap to help give it more structure. The massar and kuma cup are often more colorful as well (as was seen on reigning Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said during the recent Belgian visit to Oman).

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Sultan Qaboos bin Said visited DC only once during his almost 50-year reign before he died in early 2020. In 1983 he wore a pure white massar when arriving at the White House and later wore a colorful one during a state dinner with the Reagans. You can see both in action in this video of the Sultan’s visit.

United Arab Emirates

As the name suggests, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain), each led by its own sheikh (an honorific title used by many Arabian royals), and in turn one of the sheikhs serves as President (Raʾīs) of the UAE for a 5 year term (although usually the president is from Abu Dhabi and the prime minister is from Dubai). The Emirati we at Royal Hats are most familiar with (thanks to Royal Ascot) is current UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former husband of Jordanian Princess Haya.

Photographed visits to DC by Emirati royals have been intermittent, and those featuring headwear (based on what I found) are restricted to the wearing of the keffiyeh, also known as the ghutrah, with an agal (I will discuss these in more detail in a future post focused on Saudi Arabia).

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, can be seen in a white keffiyeh secured by a black agal in visits to the White House in 2011 and 2015.

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Mohammed’s older half-brother Khalifa, the current Raʾīs of UAE, visited the White House in 1998 when he was still Crown Prince, also wearing a keffiyeh.

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2003 saw a visit from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai to the National Building Museum in central DC wearing another white keffiyeh. Crown Prince Mohammed of Dubai’s younger brother Sheikh Hamdan wore yet another keffiyeh at the White House in 2003.

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The former Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, can be seen in a keffiyeh in 1997 below and in 2003 alongside is son.

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Emir Hamad abdicated in 2013 in favor of his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who visited the White House in 2015, seen below. In a break from the keffiyehs, Hamad’s wife and Tamim’s mother Sheikha Moza can be seen in a subdued navy turban and outfit during a visit to the Capitol building in 2019.

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While the headwear from these royals wasn’t as numerous or varied as some, they still warrant their own mentions, especially as we might be familiar with what they look like, but may not always understand their significance or who is wearing them. I hope you enjoyed this journey through the hats of most of the Middle Eastern royal families while they were in DC!

This is such an informative series, Jake, and so well researched. I’ve said before that most of Royal Hats’ focus is on hats worn by women in the European and Imperial royal houses and this provides an insightful look at royal houses where headwear is primarily worn by men. I found your introduction of the massar hat of Oman particularly fascinating. Thank you so much, Jake, for this series.

Images from Getty as indicated