The Art of Chugirma: Handmade Hats in Khiva, Uzbekistan
Born and raised in Samarkand, Abdu Samadov is full of inside information about his hometown. He has studied in England and the U.S. and is fluent in English, Farsi and Russian. Abdu guides MIR’s travelers throughout Uzbekistan and enjoys sharing his knowledge with other travelers.
Headwear is more than just an article of clothing in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. Khiva, the capital of the once mighty Khorezm Khanate, upholds the region’s tradition of treasuring distinctive hats.
On a narrow street close to the main gate of this fairy-tale city, visitors come across an ustakhona, a workshop. Here craftsmen make the original pride and joy of the area – the furry wool hats known as chugirma. A seventh-generation usta, master, Shokir, and his student-son, Amin, create chugirmas for visitors at the shop.
During Soviet times in the middle of the last century, there were hardly 11 people who could make chugirma. Now there are over 200 masters and many other apprentices who have become skilled at this craft.
- to’galak (furry)
At the end of the 18th century, masters created the first type, the furry to’galak chugirma. It is made out of skin or thick cloth, with an attached wooly exterior. It was worn by the wealthy and ruling elite, but later on became common for all.
- sherozi (short fur)
The sherozi chugirma, with short fur, is made out of baby astrakhan sheep skin.
- silkma (curly)
The most common chugirma, worn by poorer people in the last century, is the silkma chugirma. It is made of long-haired sheepskin and has a round shape. It comes in various colors.
Today they are popular headwear for the folklore bands and musicians in modern-day Khorezm. Although you don’t see locals wearing them regularly, the chugirma still represents the soul of the city for most tourists. Shokir’s workshop is always filled with foreign visitors buying or taking photos of each other in the fuzzy hats.
The chugirma has become once again more than just a hat in Khiva. Usta Shokir has managed to modernize his craft, and his creations are worn with great pride and joy all around the world.
Try on and purchase a chugirma in the bazaars of Uzbekistan, and especially in the Old Town of Khiva.
(Top photo: This Uzbek shopkeeper’s chugirma echoes his beard. Photo credit: Michel Behar)
PUBLISHED: October 7, 2015