hey, jw - do you know anything about traditional ways north african and especially moroccan jews used to do their hair?
Yeah! This is a big topic and the answer is basically “it depends where and when…” Traditional hairstyles and head-coverings differed greatly between single and married women (I assume you’re talking about women), between rural and urban areas, and between the pre-colonial and (post-)colonial periods.
In general, young women kept their hair covered with a simple scarf, and/or sometimes braided (as in this photo from Ksar-es-Suq / Er-Rachidia, 1946). In rural areas, married women wore various types of headdresses, some quite elaborate, which differed from region to region. Some examples (with great explanatory posts from my friend Maya):
the mehdor, a kind of wide headband of silver wire and fabric, worn in central Morocco
the grun (”horns”), a coiled horizontal headdress covered with cloth, worn in the southern Atlas Mountains
the sarma, a tall conical headdress of cut metal, worn in coastal Algeria (there’s a similar type of headdress, more pointed, worn in Tunisia)
Above: Two married Jewish girls, Erfoud, ca. 1935 (photo by Jean Besancenot) — the girl on the left is wearing the grun headdress.
One great source for you is Jean Besancenot’s 1940 book Costumes du Maroc (it was reprinted in 1988 and can be found or requested in most libraries)… He spent several years in the late 1930s documenting clothing and jewelry styles with photographs and drawings, and had a strong focus on Jewish communities. You can actually see some of his original negatives of Moroccan Jews here (just scroll over for the flipped positive version).
Above: A young Jewish woman from Tinghir (Todgha valley, Atlas), wearing a headdress of woven hair covered with a coin-diadem known as a sfifa. Photo by Besancenot, ca. 1934-9.
In rural areas, these complex traditional headdresses lasted well into the 20th century. In more urban areas, the influence of French and other European fashions meant that by the 19th century, Jewish women had adopted simple colourful scarves, as seen in many of the Orientalist paintings of Jewish women by Delacroix and others.
By the 20th century, many of the Jews in the large urban centres of Fes, Casablanca, Rabat, etc. had adopted European fashion to the extent that women usually wore their hair in French styles without any covering at all, as you can see in this photo from the 50s or 60s — the bride is wearing a traditional headdress as part of the keswa el-kbira, but the other women have short uncovered hair in a European style.
Hope this helps point you in good directions — good luck researching!
Y'all liked the last vintage Moroccan Jewish photo I posted, so here’s another! A Jewish girl dressed in her holiday best, Ksar-es-Suq (today Er-Rachidia) in southeast Morocco. From Jean Robichez’s Maroc Central, 1946.