The Story of Flower Men
For centuries, these descendants of the ancient Tihama and Asir tribes have been living in the foothills of the Asir mountains, within Southern Saudi Arabia, known for adorning their colourful flower garlands.
Culture of the South
For a long time, the culture of the south was undiscovered to the outside world. The mountain region of Asir was virtually inaccessible, making surrounding villages only reachable through a network of handrails and rope ladders. With the introduction of cable cars to the region in 1990, that all changed, making the area more accessible. In the more recent years, the region has gathered momentum, having its culture and traditions appreciated on a global scale. The area has been inscribed by UNESCO as a site for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Recognised for the Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, which is a traditional female interior wall decoration - an ancient art form considered a key element of the identity of the region of Asir.
History & story behind wearing it
The Qahtanis, regarded to be one of the oldest social formations in the Arabian Peninsula, came to be known as Flower men, due to the adorning of their traditional headdresses. The crowns are made from a variety of flowers and herbs, which vary depending on the occasion. Some would be worn for public and religious events, while others are worn for beautifying – to smell and look nice. Some are even worn for medicinal purposes, to help ward off headaches.
Types of flower crown
A typical day sees the Flower Men going to the market early in the morning to buy ready-made wreaths. Some prefer to select their own herbs and flowers, preparing the garlands themselves, for a more unique look. Each flower crown lasts about two to three days, so the men will have to return to the market every few days to buy new flower wreaths.
These garlands are made from a variety of herbs and flowers - the most popular being wild basil, fenugreek and marigold flowers. The more elaborate or ornate crowns are made with a type of white jasmine, so fragile it has to be kept in an icebox.
Symbol of visiting the south
Today the Flower Men are a symbol of visiting the south. So much so that in 2019 the Saudi Ministry of Culture started holding an annual ‘Flowerman Festival’, celebrating this tradition in the south region. The festival brings thousands of tourists from around the world to marvel at the headdresses and experience other cultural customs.