The Masked Women of Iran

Head covering, veils and burqas are common sight among many Muslim communities around the world. There are a lot of different styles and each have their own name, but none of these come even remotely close to the vibrancy of the boregheh mask.

These colorful masks are donned by the women of the Hormozgan Province in southern Iran. They are available in a variety of shapes and styles, but the most common ones are rectangular, pinched between the eyebrows to create a sort of vertical wall running along the bridge of the nose and across the forehead. A rectangular slit over the eyes allows the wearer to see. They are most gorgeously decorated with embroidery and beads.

boregheh mask

Photo: Eric Lafforgue

The styles usually vary according to region, ethnicity, and religious affiliation. Shia women wear red rectangular masks, while those of Sunni women are black or indigo with gold and of less geometric shapes. One peculiar design is shaped like eyebrows and moustache. It is said that this mask was designed centuries ago as a ruse to fool potential invaders into thinking that the women they spied from a distance were in fact men.

The masks are thought to have practical and cultural purposes. They shield the skin and the eyes from the sun which can be very harsh in the Persian Gulf.

The masks are worn by young girls as soon as they hit puberty. They are also worn at social events and gatherings.

These pictures were captured by photographer Eric Lafforgue, who spent time travelling around to meet the women who make and wear these masks.

boregheh mask

Photo: Eric Lafforgue

boregheh mask

Photo: Eric Lafforgue

boregheh mask

Photo: Eric Lafforgue

boregheh mask

Photo: Eric Lafforgue

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