Many will say that King Faisal I of Iraq was not a strong and instrumental leader, placed by pressure on behalf of the British, in a country that he himself did not want to rule. Indeed, King Faisal I was not Iraqi and was not accustomed to Iraqi culture and society. But many are also quick to overlook the fact that he died due to tiredness and fatigue by trying to bring Iraqis together under one unified country and one great kingdom to rule them. One of King Faisal I’s innovative efforts for a new Iraqi society was the implementation of a national headdress that could represent the character of the modern Iraqi after the rule of the Ottomans.
King Faisal I devised a plan and had one of his advisors oversee the project for this national headdress, Rustam Haider. They wanted this headdress to signify that one is educated and loyal to the kingdom. They first called it Al Faisaleyah after the King’s own name to get a lot of people to wear it. At first, Al Faisaleyah was designed and made in England, but then small factories established in Baghdad as well. The headdress took the form of a pointy long hat, having its centre between two folds. The colour of the hat was usually black, but many other colours were created later on to support different suit styles.
When the hat became famous, those who wore it on their heads were called Affandis. When one was called by this title, they were regarded as literate and educated. Soon, the whole of Baghdad started wearing the hat and this became a great symbol and pride for Baghdadis as well as other people from other cities in Iraq as the hat became famous in the Northern Region of Kurdistan. At some point, the name was changed to Al Sidara and the exact reasons for this are unknown.
The Sidara has faced negative thoughts about it as well, by those who wished to break Iraq apart into something it wasn’t, by those who opposed the headdress and called it a thing of the British. During the 1936 coup when Bakr Sidqi was overthrown, attempts were made to abolish the hat. A law came into motion by the leader of the coup government, Hikmat Suleiman, banning the hat. They tried creating their own hat, but they failed and soon after their period, the Sidara returned as the sole national headdress of Iraqis.
After the 1958 coup by Abdulkarim Qassem, the Sidara hat and its importance slowly faded away and it started becoming a tradition of the past. As Iraq became a republic, people found it harder to live the old ways of the now forgotten kingdom. This loss was strong at first, but the hat found itself back into Iraqi society decades later through each government that took the reigns in Baghdad. This means that the hat was and still is an integral part of Iraqis and their culture. It reflects highly on our forwardness, education, and thinking. I myself am proud to wear the Sidara in this day and age. I find that many people are interested to know about the hat and its history and this is why I wrote this article. The Sidara was the invention of a king that wanted Iraqis to be educated and now it’s a legendary part of our history.