A tarboosh is a man's hat that is typically made of felt. It has a flat top, no brim, and fits firmly on the head. It is commonly worn by Muslim men, either by itself or under a turban. The tarboosh also often has a silk tassel attached to the top. Red is the most common color for this hat.
Derived from the Persian word sarpush, meaning 'headdress,' the tarboosh is also known as a tarbush. It has also been called a fez and a checheya. The fez is a hat originally only produced in Fez, Morocco, and is slightly smaller than a tarboosh. Regardless of the name, all hats of this type have a similar truncated cone shape, that narrows as they extend upward from the head.
This hat has been popular in several nations over the last 200 years. In Palestine, two different types of this headdress were often seen, the tarbush maghribi and the tarbush istambuli. The first type was made of a soft material and had a rounded shape. In contrast, the second kind had straight sides and was rigid. The softer tarbooshes were worn by commoners and the stiff versions were worn by men of power.
Beginning in Turkey in the early part of the 17th century, the tarboosh was a required item of formal dress for men. This changed in 1925, when the leader of the Young Turks, Kemal Atatürk, banned the hat in an effort to make Turkish fashion more Western. His edict was not taken well, resulting in riots.
The tarboosh was also used as part of the Egyptian military uniform, under the rule of Mohamed Ali, who ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1848. Two tarbooshes per year were issued to soldiers. Initially, all of these hats had to be imported, but Ali commissioned a factory that began producing Egyptian-made tarbooshes in 1825. In time, the tarboosh became the headdress of all government members, but in 1952 the republican government of Egypt removed the official head wear requirement.
On October 29, 1932, this hat almost caused a serious diplomatic rift between these two countries. Egypt's diplomatic envoy to Turkey, Abdel Malek Hamza Bey, arrived at a Republican Day celebration dressed in his tarboosh, only to be told by Turkish officials that he should remove it because its presence would offend Atatürk. Bey refused, and left the celebration. Although the Turkish leader apologized for the incident, the official stance of the Turkish government was that no apology had been necessary.