From towering temples to beaches lined with coconut palms and lush vegetation to picturesque villages, the ancient kingdom of Cambodia has an exotic charm that is sure to entice travelers. Also renowned for its rich history and heritage, “mouk slek”, which proudly exhibits the nation’s deep-rooted culture.
The Cambodian mouk slek is a straw hat designed to shade the head and face from direct sunlight or downpours. Traditionally, people also offer these hats to wish each other blessings and prosperity.
A mouk slek is a wide-brimmed hat woven from synthetic materials similar to straw or plant fibers. Created by hand, artisans soften the materials by steaming or immersing them in hot water, and then shaping them into a hat shape.
Occasionally, they add bright colors by sewing colored threads at two opposite points inside the hat to hang a silk cloth chin strap, to better position the hat when worn.
As a token of love and care, words or symbols are often written inside the hat to personalize it. Also, painted countryside landscapes, rice fields, or other traditional patterns commonly comprise the decorations of hats widely used in various regions.
The hat’s wide brim protects the scalp, face, and neck from the weather, while the air-permeable straw helps to keep the head cool. Originally worn solely by men of all social classes, it is now used as a fashion accessory by everyone throughout the country.
The hat can also be soaked in water, allowing the wearer to stay cool, which is very useful in Cambodia during hot weather. People working in rice fields and selling products on market stalls typically wear these hats. These hats can also be used as baskets to carry products.
Straw hats have kept their original use in daily life and play an integral part in Khmer culture. It is also still customary for Cambodians to give personalized hats to their loved ones along with blessings.
Nowadays, mouk slek, often found in souvenir stores, is skillfully decorated on its surface with national symbols to show travelers all the unique charm and heritage of the country.