masked women minab iran

Masked Women of Minab Market – Iran

The Minab market is a unique mix – even to my well-traveled eyes.

It’s the way women dress: colorful hijab scarves or black chador cloaks, yet more intriguing are their bird-like masks.


Masked Women of Iran – Watch the Video


These masks originate from Arabia.

It’s said they were adopted by Arabian women to thwart the advances of Portuguese slave traders some centuries ago.

Mural of masked women on streets of Minab in southern Iran.

And it’s this attire – along with the different ethnic faces, which reveals something of Minab’s history; once a trade hub on a route linking Iran (Persia) with Arabia, Pakistan and Africa.

The weekly market at Minab is held every Thursday

The “Panjshambe Bazaar” attracts people from all over the Hormozgan region of southern Iran. Languages spoken include a Minabi dialect of Farsi, alongside Arabic and Urdu.

Iranian  women with baby minab
These women wanted a photo of the baby only, until I showed them the image on camera. Amazed – by technology, they then posed for me, giggling, enjoying the attention of onlookers. Everyone seemingly, bewildered by this “event”.

But again, it’s the women of Minab Market that make it an attraction

Wandering the market, I encountered friendly faces (and many shy and surprised ones too). But this woman was the brightest star. Not only to did she allow me to photograph her, she also offered me a puff on her pipe. Which I accepted; she was smoking tobacco.

Photographing people in conservative Islamic societies is often difficult. (Likewise tribal Africa and indigenous Andean cultures).

masked women vendor minab market iran

Many remain wary of cameras and strangers at Minab Market.

masked women in coloful minab market iran
Colors blend together at Minab Market – you can barley spot the woman.

And being a foreign male in an Islamic country (and without a local fixer) often means the best photos are never taken.

I shoot discreetly in public places but ask permission for conventional portraits.

When asked by local folks why I photograph I answer. I am not a professional. I won’t sell your image.

Women with shopping leave the Minab Market
Masked women with shopping leave the Minab Market.

The objective of my photos – hobby aside – is to take pictures to counter my fading memories. And also to share my travels with other people. That’s you, readers 🙂

Travels in Iran – 2011


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