Facekini, hattah, shemagh, umbrella, ghutrah, kandura, parasol, abaya, kufiya

It’s fascinating to watch as each culture has its own style of fashion for protection from the sun.

There are numerous ways that people around the world use to keep the sun from beating down and zapping their energy.

It should be noted that covering the head, face, or body for religious purposes is something other than what I am discussing here. I am speaking from the vantage point only for protection from the sun.

When I first started traveling through Asia – I was surprised to see that ladies were using umbrellas as sun protection.

This idea is not something that I saw on the streets of San Francisco.

Even today, when I see someone seeking shade by using an umbrella – it appears a bit peculiar.  Probably because I am from the old school whereby I learned that umbrellas are typically a device used to protect from the rain.

It was the parasol that was designed to protect from the sun.

The history of parasols starts even before waterproofed umbrellas were first made. Parasols first appeared in ancient Egypt over three thousand years ago. Parasols were created to protect the royalty from the harsh rays of the sun and thereby maintain their pale skin. Later the parasol eventually evolved into a delicate fashion accessory.

Umbrellas and parasols are most commonly used as a sun protective accessory in Asia.

Typically, I see an adult woman carrying a small size umbrella. However, in the photo below, it’s the reverse image – the umbrella really is quite big for the small sized girl. I captured her as she walked home from school on this beautiful South China Seas island – Cheung Chau.


Schoolgirl on Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong – Photo courtesy of Shirley Meerson

In ancient times the Bedouin – the seminomadic group from Arabia –  would cover their heads to protect from sunburn and also cover their faces in case of sand storms.

Sometimes the Bedouins would also use henna under their eyes as a protection from the glaring desert sun.

The nomads in the deserts of the world, often do cover their body.

To avoid the heat, they dress carefully with long flowing robes.

So what’s up with this when we know how blazing hot it is in the desert?

Well…the more skin you cover, the better.

It has been determined that both black and white loose clothing are actually the best way to stay cool under the sun.  It feels very breezy. It is the white that reflects the heat of the blazing sun and the black color will absorb body heat.

Even the Tuareg, a desert group famous for their indigo-blue clothing, wear white outer garments occasionally.

Photo courtesy of Des voyages d’aventure

Photo courtesy of Des voyages d’aventure

Over to China…where a few years ago – the facekini hit the beaches.

The trend increased on the shores of the East China Sea coast by beach-goers who wanted to protect their skin from the sun.

The facekini protective mask does look a bit like a bank robber…and if you want it can also come with a matching body suit.

Material used for the facekini is a nylon/polyester/Lycra blend that covers the person’s face and neck, leaving open the eyes, nose and mouth.

In such countries the mandate is to preserve the fair skin as a sign of well-being.  A person having tan skin will be looked upon as a peasant who works outside.

With various health and beauty trends from Asia making the rounds globally – do you think the facekini will catch on…? ☺


Photo courtesy of