Numerous large-scale installations representing the “Egal”, or part of the traditional male Qatari headdress, can be found on Doha’s Lusail Marina Promenade, an unmissable site. The public artworks by Qatari contemporary artist Shouq Al Mana depict the doubled black cord that wraps around the ghitra or ghutra, the square white scarf on the top of a Qatari male headdress.
From the egal are several long black ropes, also portrayed in Al Mana’s work, that blow nonchalantly in the wind on Doha’s expansive seaside promenade. The artwork was inaugurated on June 5th, five years after the Qatar blockade was implemented. On January 5th, 2021 the blockade was ended with the AlUla declaration, whereby Qatar and Saudi Arabia agreed to Kuwait-US brockered deal to resolve the country, opening land, air and sea borders between Qatar and other Gulf countries, including the UAE and Bahrain, that severered relationships with Qatar. The work, with its poignant large-scale black cords, pays tribute to Qatari heritage but also stands as a symbol of respect and appreciation towards Qatar’s leadership, citizens and residents for their unity during the blockade against Qatar.
With the variable heights of each egal, the artist highlights the different generations that experienced the blockade. The egal, also known as iqal and igal, can be found worn by Arab men throughout the region. The traditional accessory, which dates back to Antiquity, seen depicted on bas-reliefs and statues, particularly those from the Babylonian period, is used to tie the ghutra in place. It was worn during ancient times by Middle Eastern and Semitic civilizations.
In June, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, announced the unveiling of the new sculpture at Lusail, stating how Egal served as “a tribute to Qatar’s history and traditions, by representing a piece of cultural headwear worn by men as part of the traditional attire,” she said in a tweet. Then adding: “The raised stance of the egal is a symbol of respect and appreciation towards Qatar’s leadership, citizens and residents for their unity, resilience, and dedication to the State of Qatar.”
The work of Al Mana, born in 1996, focuses on culture and identity and how both are influenced by past and present historical events and traditions. Al Mana received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar in 2017. Her practice involves painting, sculpture and installation art.
“Culture and poetry offer intangible experiences to individuals that one cannot precisely pinpoint, and in that sense, it becomes obvious that the possibilities in art are endless,” she states on Emergeast.