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Keffiyeh - Wikipedia

Yemeni man wearing a keffiyeh on his head and a
Shal on his shoulder
The keffiyeh or kufiya (Arabic: ‫ﻮﻓﻴﺔ‬
ِ ُ‫ﻛ‬
kūfiyyah, meaning "from the city of
ْ plural ‫ﻮﻓﻴﺎت‬
َ ُ‫;)اﻟﻜ‬
Kufa"[1] (‫ﻮﻓﺔ‬
ِ ُ‫ ﻛ‬kūfiyyāt),
ُ shemagh
also known as a ghutrah (‫ﺘﺮة‬
َ ‫)ﻏ‬,
(‫ ُﺷ َﻤﺎغ‬šumāġ), ḥaṭṭah (‫)ﺣﻄﺔ‬,
َ mashadah
(‫)ﻣ َﺸﺪَ ة‬,
َ chafiye, dastmal yazdi (Persian:
‫دﺳﺘﻤﺎل ﯾﺰدی‬, Kurdish: ‫ دەﺳﺘﻤﺎل ﯾﻪزدی‬destmal
yezdî) or cemedanî (Kurdish: ‫)ﺟﻪﻣﻪداﻧﯽ‬, is
a traditional Arabian headdress, or what
is sometimes called a habit, that
originated in the Arabian Peninsula, and
is now worn throughout the Middle-East
region. It is fashioned from a square
scarf, and is usually made of cotton.[2]
The keffiyeh is commonly found in arid
regions, as it provides protection from
sunburn, dust and sand. Toward the end
of the 1980s, the keffiyeh became a
fashion accessory in the United States
and, during the early 2000s it became
very popular among teenagers in Tokyo,
Japan, where it is often worn with
camouflage-style clothing.
Varieties and variations
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During his sojourn with the Marsh Arabs
of Iraq, Gavin Young noted that the local
sayyids—"venerated men accepted [...] as
descendants of the Prophet Muhammad
and Ali ibn Abi Talib"—wore dark green
keffiyeh (cheffiyeh) in contrast to the
black-and-white checkered examples
typical of the area's inhabitants.[3]
Many Palestinian keffiyehs are a mix of
cotton and wool, which facilitates quick
drying and, when desired, keeping the
wearer's head warm. The keffiyeh is
usually folded in half (into a triangle) and
the fold worn across the forehead. Often,
the keffiyeh is held in place by a circlet of
rope called an agal (Arabic: ‫ﻋﻘﺎل‬, ʿiqāl).
Some wearers wrap the keffiyeh into a
turban, while others wear it loosely
draped around the back and shoulders. A
taqiyah is sometimes worn underneath
the keffiyeh; in the past, it has also been
wrapped around the rim of a fez. The
keffiyeh is almost always of white cotton
cloth, but many have a checkered pattern
in red or black stitched into them. The
plain white keffiyeh is most popular in
the Arab states of the Persian Gulf—in
Kuwait and Bahrain to the exclusion of
almost any other style. The keffiyeh is
worn by men of all ages, whether on the
head or around the shoulders.
Jewish rabbi wearing a traditional habit
In Jordan, the red-and-white keffiyeh is
strongly associated with the country and
its heritage, because the red color was
introduced by the Jordanian Bedouins
under British rule, where it is known as
the shemagh mhadab. The Jordanian
keffiyeh has decorative cotton or wool
tassels on the sides; the bigger these
tassels, the greater the garment's
supposed value and the status of the
person wearing it. It has long been worn
by Bedouins and villagers and used as a
symbol of honor and/or tribal
identification. The tasseled red-and-white
Jordanian shemagh is much thicker than
the untasseled red-and-white shemagh
seen in Persian Gulf countries.
In Egypt, the keffiyeh and the agal is worn
by Bedouins specially in the Sinai
Peninsula. It is also sometimes tied into
a turban in varying styles.
In Yemen, the keffiyeh is used extensively
in both red-white and black-white pattern.
It spread during 1948 through Palestinian
In Malaysia, the keffiyeh has been worn
by Muslim women as part of hijab
fashion and during the Palestinian
struggle against Israel. Many Malaysians
wore it to show solidarity for Palestine.
Also in Indonesia the people used the
keffiyeh to show their solidarity with the
In Turkey it was forbidden to wear a
keffiyeh because it was seen as evidence
of support of the PKK.[5]
The keffiyeh, especially the all-white
keffiyeh, is also known as the ghutrah.
This is particularly common in the
Arabian Peninsula, where the optional
skullcap is called a keffiyeh. The garment
is also known in some areas as the
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Roughly speaking:
Ordinary keffiyeh
A piece of white/orange/black cloth
made from wool and cotton, worn
primarily by Palestinians.
A traditional scarf originated from
Yemen, usually made of cotton or flax
and decorated with many colors, but
usually red and white; worn primarily by
Yemen, & Oman.
A plain piece of cloth worn by the Arabian
Dastmaal Yazdi
The King of Morocco wearing a rezzah
A traditional scarf in Iran, originally from
the Yazd region of Iran.
A style of keffiyeh that originated in Iran,
based on the Iranian Dastmaal Yazdi with
influences from the Palestinian Keffiyeh.
Often worn by Shi'a Muslims in Iran as
well as Iraq and Lebanon to express
support for Shi'a Political parties. The
scarf gained popularity during the IranIraq war as a sign of Shi'a resistance
against Saddam. The Chafiyeh is also
worn by Basij members of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah, as
well as occasionally by members of
Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, but
also by ordinary Shia religious pilgrims
not affiliated with any political group.
A piece of white cloth made of cotton
mild, worn in western Iraq and by the
Arabs of the Arabian Gulf states.
It is worn by inhabitants of North Africa.
Palestinian national symbol
Traditionally worn by Palestinian farmers,
the keffiyeh became worn by Palestinian
men of any rank and became a symbol of
Palestinian nationalism during the Arab
Revolt of the 1930s.[6][7] Its prominence
increased during the 1960s with the
beginning of the Palestinian resistance
movement and its adoption by
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.[6]
Yasser Arafat wearing his iconic fishnet pattern
keffiyeh in 2001
The black-and-white fishnet pattern
keffiyeh would later become Arafat's
iconic symbol, and he would rarely be
seen without it; only occasionally would
he wear a military cap, or, in colder
climates, a Russian-style ushanka hat.
Arafat would wear his keffiyeh in a semitraditional way, wrapped around his head
via an agal. He also wore a similarly
patterned piece of cloth in the neckline of
his military fatigues. Early on, he had
made it his personal trademark to drape
the scarf over his right shoulder only,
arranging it in the rough shape of a
triangle, to resemble the outlines of
historic Palestine. This way of wearing
the keffiyeh became a symbol of Arafat
as a person and political leader, and it
has not been imitated by other
Palestinian leaders.
Another Palestinian figure associated
with the keffiyeh is Leila Khaled, a female
member of the armed wing of the
Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine. Several photographs of Khaled
circulated in the Western newspapers
after the hijacking of TWA Flight 840 and
the Dawson's Field hijackings. These
photos often included Khaled wearing a
keffiyeh in the style of a Muslim woman's
hijab, wrapped around the head and
shoulders. This was unusual, as the
keffiyeh is associated with Arab
masculinity, and many believe this to be
something of a fashion statement by
Khaled, denoting her equality with men in
the Palestinian armed struggle.
The colors of the stitching in a keffiyeh
are also vaguely associated with
Palestinians' political sympathies.
Traditional black and white keffiyehs
became associated with Fatah. Later, red
and white keffiyehs were adopted by
Palestinian Marxists, such as the PFLP.[8]
The color symbolism of the scarves is by
no means universally accepted by all
Palestinians or Arabs. Its importance
should not be overstated, as the scarves
are used by Palestinians and Arabs of all
political affiliations, as well as by those
with no particular political sympathies.
Symbol of Palestinian solidarity
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The black and white chequered keffiyeh
has become a symbol of Palestinian
nationalism, dating back to the 1936–
1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Outside of
the Middle East and North Africa, the
keffiyeh first gained popularity among
activists supporting the Palestinians in
the conflict with Israel.
The wearing of the keffiyeh often comes
with criticism from various political
factions in the ongoing Israeli–
Palestinian conflict. The slang "keffiyeh
kinderlach" refers to young Jews,
particularly college students, who sport a
keffiyeh around the neck as a
political/fashion statement. This term
may have first appeared in print in an
article by Bradley Burston in which he
writes of "the suburban-exile kaffiyeh
kinderlach of Berkeley, more Palestinian
by far than the Palestinians" in their
criticism of Israel. European activists
have also worn the keffiyeh.[9][10]
While Western protesters wear differing
styles and shades of keffiyeh, the most
prominent is the black-and-white
keffiyeh. This is typically worn around the
neck like a neckerchief, simply knotted in
the front with the fabric allowed to drape
over the back. Other popular styles
include rectangular-shaped scarves with
the basic black-and-white pattern in the
body, with the ends knitted in the form of
the Palestinian flag. Since the Al-Aqsa
Intifada, these rectangular scarves have
increasingly appeared with a
combination of the Palestinian flag and
Al-Aqsa Mosque printed on the ends of
the fabric.
A loom at work making a traditional Palestinian
keffiyeh in the Hirbawi factory, Hebron, West Bank
Today, this symbol of Palestinian identity
is now largely imported from China. With
the scarf's growing popularity in the
2000s, Chinese manufacturers entered
the market, driving Palestinians out of
the business.[11] In 2008, Yasser Hirbawi,
who for five decades had been the only
Palestinian manufacturer of keffiyehs, is
now struggling with sales. Mother Jones
wrote, "Ironically, global support for
Palestinian-statehood-as-fashionaccessory has put yet another nail in the
coffin of the Occupied Territories'
beleaguered economy."[11]
Westerners in keffiyeh
T. E. Lawrence at Rabegh, north of Jeddah, in 1917
British Colonel T. E. Lawrence (better
known as Lawrence of Arabia) was
probably the best-known Western wearer
of the keffiyeh and agal during his
involvement in the Arab Revolt in World
War I. This image of Lawrence was later
popularized by the film epic about him,
Lawrence of Arabia, in which he was
played by Peter O'Toole.
The 1920s silent-film era of American
cinema saw studios take to Orientalist
themes of the exotic Middle East,
possibly due to the view of Arabs as part
of the Allies of World War I, and keffiyehs
became a standard part of the theatrical
wardrobe. These films and their male
leads typically had Western actors in the
role of an Arab, often wearing the
keffiyeh with the agal (as with The Sheik
and The Son of the Sheik, starring actor
Rudolph Valentino).
Erwin Rommel also commonly wore a
keffiyeh during the Western Desert
Campaign for practical reasons.
Fashion trend
As with other articles of clothing worn in
wartime, such as the T-shirt, fatigues and
khaki pants, the keffiyeh has been seen
as chic among non-Arabs in the West.
Keffiyehs became popular in the United
States in the late 1980s, at the start of
the First Intifada, when bohemian girls
and punks wore keffiyehs as scarves
around their necks.[12][6] In the early
2000s, keffiyehs were very popular
among youths in Tokyo, who often wore
them with camouflage clothing.[12] The
trend recurred in the mid-2000s in the
United States,[12][6] Europe,[6] Canada and
Australia,[13][14] when the keffiyeh
became popular as a fashion accessory,
usually worn as a scarf around the neck
in hipster circles.[12][6] Stores such as
Urban Outfitters and TopShop stocked
the item (however, after some
controversy over the retailer's decision to
label the item "anti-war scarves" Urban
Outfitters pulled it).[6] In spring 2008,
keffiyehs in colors like purple and mauve
were given away in issues of fashion
magazines in Spain and France. In UAE,
males are inclining towards more
western headgear while the women are
developing preferences for dupatta—the
traditional head cover of the Indian
subcontinent.[15] The appropriation of the
keffiyeh as a fashion statement by non-
Arab wearers separate from its political
and historical meaning has been the
subject of controversy in recent years.
While it is worn often as a symbol of
solidarity with the Palestinian struggle,
the fashion industry has disregarded its
significance by using its pattern and style
in day-to-day clothing design. For
example, in 2016 Topshop released a
romper with the Keffiyeh print, calling it a
"scarf playsuit". This led to accusations
of cultural appropriation and Topshop
eventually pulled the item from their
Jordanian Bedouin forces noncommissioned officer wearing shemagh
in Petra 2004
Persian children wearing the keffiyeh
during a religious gathering
U.S. Marine wearing a shemagh at the
Afghanistan–Pakistan border
See also
Aghal, Arabian headdress
Bisht, Arabian cloak
Gamcha, scarf from the Indian
Gingham, scarf from Malaysia
ʿEmamah, Arabian turban
Krama, Cambodian scarf
List of headgear
Litham, Arabian headdress
Sudra (headdress), Jewish scarf
Tagelmust, Berber scarf
Tallit, Jewish shawl
Thawb, Arabian garment
1. Ali, Syed Ameer (1924). A Short
History Of The Saracens . Routledge.
pp. 424–. ISBN 978-1-136-19894-6.
"Kufa was famous for its silk and
half-silk kerchiefs for the head,
which are still used in Western Asia
and known as Kuffiyeh."
2. J. R. Bartlett (19 July 1973). The
First and Second Books of the
Maccabees . CUP Archive. p. 246.
ISBN 978-0-521-09749-9. Retrieved
17 April 2013. "traditional Jewish
head-dress was either something
like the Arab's Keffiyeh (a cotton
square folded and wound around a
head) or like a turban or stocking
3. Young, Gavin (1978) [First published
by William Collins & Sons in 1977].
Return to the Marshes. Photography
by Nik Wheeler. Great Britain: Futura
Publications. pp. 15–16. ISBN 07088-1354-2. "There was a
difference here for nearly all of them
wore dark green kefiyahs (or
cheffiyeh) (headcloths) instead of
the customary black and white
check ones. By that sign we could
tell that they were sayyids, like the
sallow-faced man at Falih's."
4. Times, Asia. "Asia Times | Indonesia
shows its solidarity for the
Palestinian cause | Article" . Asia
Times. Retrieved 21 September
5. Uche, Onyebadi (14 February 2017).
Music as a Platform for Political
Communication. IGI Global. p. 214.
ISBN 9781522519874.
6. Kim, Kibum. "Where Some See
Fashion, Others See Politics" The
New York Times (11 February 2007).
7. Torstrick, Rebecca (2004). Culture
and Customs of Israel. Greenwood.
p. 117. ISBN 978-0-313-32091-0.
8. Binur, Yoram (1990). My Enemy, My
Self. Penguin. p. xv.
9. Tipton, Frank B. (2003). A History of
Modern Germany Since 1815.
Continuum International Publishing
Group. p. 598. ISBN 0-8264-4910-7.
10. Mudde, Cas (2005). Racist
Extremism in Central and Eastern
Europe. Routledge. p. 34. ISBN 0415-35594-X.
11. Sonja Sharp (22 June 2009). "Your
Intifada: Now Made in China!" .
Mother Jones.
12. Nina (15 February 2005). "Checkered
Past: Arafat's trademark scarf is now
military chic" . The Village Voice.
Archived from the original on 24
July 2008.
13. Arjun Ramachandran (30 May 2008).
"Keffiyeh kerfuffle hits Bondi
bottleshop" . The Sydney Morning
Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from
the original on 29 August 2011.
Retrieved 24 September 2013.
14. Arjun Ramachandran (29 May 2008).
"Celebrity chef under fire for 'jihadi
chic' " . The Sydney Morning Herald.
Fairfax Media. Archived from the
original on 21 September 2011.
Retrieved 24 September 2013.
15. "What do Arabs wear on their
heads" . UAE Style Magazine.
16. "Topshop pulls 'keffiyeh playsuit'
after row over cultural theft" . Retrieved
1 September 2017.
Further reading
Philippi, Dieter (2009). Sammlung
Philippi – Kopfbedeckungen in Glaube,
Religion und Spiritualität. St. Benno
Verlag, Leipzig. ISBN 978-3-7462-28006.
Jastrow, Marcus (1926). Dictionary of
Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic
Literature. ISBN 978-1-56563-860-0.
The lexicon includes more references
explaining what a sudra is on page
External links
Wikimedia Commons has media
related to Keffiyeh.
"The Keffiyeh and the Arab Heartland"
"Saudi Aramco World: The dye that
binds" by Caroline Stone
More references about a sudra on
page 962 from Jastrow Dictionary
Modern Chronology of the Keffiyah
Kraze from Arab American blog
Che Couture Gives way to Kurds' Puşi
Chic by Işıl Eğrikavuk, Hurriyet
Palestinian Keffiyeh outgrows Mideast
Last factory in Palestine produces
Hirbawi: The Only Original Kufiya Made
in Palestine
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