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Arousa el Burqa

 

The arousa el burqa is the large bulging object, almost out of proportion, resting on the forehead of the woman depicted on the postcard below. They are part of the Egyptian face veil and an amulet holder (or amulet in its own right), worn on a string on the forehead of the wearer. Literally, arousa means the ‘bride (or doll)
of the veil’. They are in fact the only decoration on the traditional black Cairene veil. These face veils were made of black crinkly silk, lace or crocheted cloth produced in Mahalla el Kubra now located within the city of Cairo.

 

 

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Not all arousas were this large however, they could range from only a few centimeters to almost ten centimeters in length and half a centimeter to almost three centimeters in diameter. Although different kinds of metal were used (including silver, copper, brass or even iron), arousas were ideally made of (plated) gold, displaying the wealth of the owner’s family. The arousa is not a very straightforward object, but it is very uniform in its appearance. Every arousa consists of several, more or less consistent, parts. The core is a metal cylinder, often constructed around a wooden or reed tube.

From the accounts of Nile travellers, as well as from the jewelers’ stamps on the objects themselves, we can determine that the period in which the arousas were used roughly covers at least the last two centuries. Of course, there may be evidence from earlier periods as well. However, with the disappearance of Ottoman styles and the beginning of the women’s movement in Egypt in the 1950s, the use of the arousa was almost completely abandoned and with it, its original function almost forgotten.