The Art of Chugirma: Handmade Hats in Khiva, Uzbekistan

The Art of Chugirma: Handmade Hats in Khiva, Uzbekistan

Born and raised in SamarkandAbdu 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.

Our author, Abdu, models a modernized chugirma hat. Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

The author, Abdu, models a modernized chugirma hat
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Handmade in Khiva: A Workshop VisitThe oasis town of Khiva was a popular stop for caravans journeying the great Silk Road in their thousands. As well as striking ceramic-tiled architecture, you can observe the revival of traditional arts in arrays of workshops.

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.

Master Amin in the Khiva chugirma shop. Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Master Amin in the Khiva chugirma shop
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Chugirma TraditionsChugirmas are the historically distinct sheepskin headwear for Khorezmian men. In the past, a person’s chugirma showed his social status. The elderly people of Khiva say that headwear is a symbol of pride, and swapping or lending it to someone is wrong and immoral. Only sons could inherit the headwear of their father. Many Khivans keep various chugirmas of their ancestors with honor.

An assortment of chugirmas in Ichon Kala, Khiva. Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

An assortment of chugirmas in Ichon Kala, Khiva
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Three Kinds of ChugirmaUsta Shokir says that, in the past, Khorezmians wore huge round chugirmas, which have become a symbol of the area. There are now three types of chugirma:

  • 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.

 

A local chugirma stall in Khiva. Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

A local chugirma stall in Khiva
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Reasons to Wear a ChugirmaAccording to usta Shokir, the chugirma works as a microclimate regulator for the head. It keeps the head warm in winter, and in summer it protects the head and shoulders from the fierce desert sun. When your head is sweating you can take the hat off momentarily to enjoy the cooling breeze. The furry edges shield the eyes from severe sun rays, icy winter winds and sandy desert gusts. Those who travelled on camels used their chugirma as a pillow for the night’s rest.

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.

Members of the Khalfi Family, a local folklore band in Khiva modeling a variety of chugirmas. Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Members of a local folklore band in Khiva modeling a variety of chugirmas
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Travel to Uzbekistan with MIRMIR has 30 years of travel experience in Uzbekistan, and has an affiliate office there. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise has twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Try on and purchase a chugirma in the bazaars of Uzbekistan, and especially in the Old Town of Khiva.  

You can visit Uzbekistan with MIR a number of ways: on a small group tour, on a rail journey by private train,  or on an independent trip put together just the way you want it.

(Top photo: This Uzbek shopkeeper’s chugirma echoes his beard. Photo credit: Michel Behar)

PUBLISHED: October 7, 2015

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  • Saleh Clatworthy-Williams

    where can I buy a Chugirma. Who is selling them on internet ?