«A Sign through the Ages» (Arabs of Uzbekistan Septum Nose Rings)

Arab settlers brought the tradition of the septum nose ring to Central Asia. Due to the Arab conquests, Arab tribes established settlements in northwest Arabia, along the Great Silk Road, and ultimately in the region now known as Uzbekistan by the 10th/16th century. These tribes can be traced back to modern-day Afghanistan, specifically the cities of Aghan Balkh, Shibarghan, and Andkhoy.

In 2001 and 2004 we found ourselves first in the small mountain village of Katta-Langar and then in the Jeynov village of the Kashkadarya region of Uzbekistan studying the history of one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Qur’an, which the settlers also brought with them. The quarters of the village have retained the names of the Afghan cities from where the Arab settlers came here. They still use the Arabic language in everyday life and carefully preserve the customs and traditions of their ancestors. It turned out that this kind of nasal septum rings served and continue to serve as a marker of the ethnic identity of women belonging to the Arab communities of Uzbekistan.

It was Jeynov where we met Muradullo Saidov, a prominent organizer of agricultural production in Uzbekistan and a Hero of Uzbekistan. He also created the International Arab Culture Center in Jeynov. It was thanks to his help that in 2004 an exhibition was held in the Petersburg Kunstkamera entitled “JEYNOV – ‘WE ARRIVED’ (The Arabs of Uzbekistan − images of traditional culture)”.
A close parallel to Jeynov septum nose rings was recorded in the Dhofar Governorate (the Sultanate of Oman). The Dhofar septum nose ring is called a khasafa or khasama, and it indicated girls’ marital status; at puberty a girl’s nasal septum was pierced for the nose ring she would wear once wed

Photo by Tatiana Fedorova, a member of our expedition in 2004

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