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The Khamta Sadar

By N.K. Babar

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multipurpose khamta sadar

Buying oranges from a street vendor

The Khamta Sadar

Sadar literally means a sheet of cloth. There are several types of sadar’s like bed sheets, or the type that women wear to cover themselves called chail or the type that women use to keep themselves warm called shawl.

A sadar may be made of cotton, wool or a blend of wool and synthetics.

The one we are talking about is what men carry in the rural (KPK) province of Pakistan.

To a rural Pukhtoon man (Pukhtoon, Pakhtoon, Pushtoon, Pathan are one and the same thing), the word ‘sadar’ means the sadar that he generally carries over his shoulder, loosely rolled up. Its roughly the size of a common full size woolen blanket.

The Khamta Sadar has been part of the Pukhtoon male attire for centuries. It is made of cotton, generally available in two or three shades of gray. It used to be the standard for all but over time woolen sadar’s have taken the lions share.

Why don’t we call a sadar simply a shawl? We could but a shawl is something that is identified with women and asking a macho Pathan man to carry a shawl would be a good cause and a justifiable one for getting your jaw re-adjusted. So don’t say shawl and you’ll be safe – trust me.

Khamta Sadar - pakistan - shawl

A handy prayer mat



Life in rural KPK is quite simple. There are no pretenses about looking good and what you wear is based on what is more practical instead of what’s in fashion.



The sturdy Khamta Sadar is put to all kinds of uses. If it’s cold, wrap it around like a blanket (not a shawl :–) ), if you are drowsy, lay it on the ground and take a nap under a tree. If it’s time for prayer and there are five prayers in a day, lay it down like a mat and pray on it. If you happen to come across a good deal in the bazaar, put the groceries in it and give it a knot and you have a pandookay (satchel).

Khamta Sadar - versatile

Time for a short nap

Your child gets tired of walking behind you, make a harness and load him up on your back. Find some firewood on the way, put the child down and now the firewood is on your back. You got to have your priorities right.

The Khamta Sadar is very much alive and even the more urban Pathan’s have one or two if only for nostalgic reasons.


PS: We do have a limited supply of Khamta Sadar’s in our Men’s section.

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