In Saudi Arabia's southern province of Asir, it's common to find stalls selling elaborate flower crowns. The intricate headpieces are highly detailed, and some weigh quite a bit due to the sheer amount of greenery they contain. And while flowers are often associated with women, these crowns will actually make their way onto the heads of a group known as the Flower Men.
Photographer Omar Reda set out to capture this unique tradition, which is carried on by members of the Qahtan tribe. Descendents of the ancient Tihama and Asir groups, these men are participating in a custom that dates back over 2,000 years. The crowns incorporate flowers, herbs, and greens and are worn for different reasons. They are readily available and can be customized to the wearer's style. Younger generations of Qahtani men often select crowns with colorful flowers and show off their personalities through aesthetics. The older generation often has a more minimalist approach to the design and often incorporates more herbs for their medicinal properties.
Reda, who has been fascinated by different cultures since childhood, traveled to the region in order to see the Flower Men for himself. While members of the tribe are notoriously closed to outsiders, they've opened up in recent years due to interest in their traditions. This allowed Reda to make connections and take a beautiful series of portraits that celebrates Qahtani culture.
“My hope is for people to develop a deeper appreciation for the flower crown tradition and to showcase the richness and diversified culture of Saudi Arabia,” Reda tells My Modern Met.
The Lebanese photographer, who is based in Saudi Arabia, also works as a creative director and this shines through in the final product. The portraits are pared down and straightforward, allowing viewers to hone in on the crowns and appreciate their details. It's a wonderful view of the world away from the globalization that surrounds us daily and is a reminder that these precious traditions should be respected and honored.