An agal is the cord
that holds the ghutra
headcloth on top of the head in the traditional men's headgear of Saudi Arabia
and surrounding areas. It is a ring of heavy cord
, usually black, braided out of goat
hair traditionally, though they may even be nylon
cord nowadays. The agal is doubled up so that two loops go around the head, and sometimes has ends hanging down in back. It's thought that it originated as the rope that nomads used to tether
their camels at night, which was wrapped around the head during the day so as not to be lost.
Occasionally religious scholars wear a white agal rather than a black one. Like any kind of clothing, there are different styles of wearing the agal. "Sometimes it is in style to wear the agal on the right or left side of the head; sometimes it is tilted forwards or backwards," Saudi student Mohammed Ali Monawar says. The ring of cord is stiff enough that it can be tipped to one side like that.
Martha Kirk, Green Sands: My Five Years In The Saudi Desert, Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 1994.