The keffiyeh or kufiya ( Arabic) كوفية kūfiyyah, meaning “from the city of Kufa” (الكوفة); plural كوفيات kūfiyyāt), also known as a ghutrah (غُترَة), shemagh (شماغ šmāġ), ḥaṭṭah (حَطّة), mashadah (مَشَدة), chafiye (Persian : چَفیِه) or cemedanî (Kurdish: جه مه داني), is a traditional Middle Eastern headdress fashioned from a square scarf, usually made of cotton. It is typically worn by Arabs, Kurds, and some Jews.
It is commonly found in arid regions as it provides protection from sunburn, dust and sand. Its distinctive standard woven checkered pattern may have originated in an ancient Mesopotamian representation of either fishing nets or ears of grain, but the true origin of the pattern remains unknown.
Toward the end of the 1980s, the keffiyeh became a fashion accessory in the USA and, during the 2000s, it became very popular among adolescents in Tokyo, where it was often worn with camouflage -style clothing.
Many Palestinian keffiyehs are a mix of cotton and wool, which facilitates quick drying and, when desired, keeping the wearer’s head warm. It 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 headgear 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.
In Jordan, the red-and-white keffiyeh is strongly associated with the country and its heritage, where it is known as the shemagh mhadab. The Jordanian version 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 Yemen, the keffiyeh is used extensively in both red-white and black-white pattern and in some traditional Yemeni designs and colours. Before the 1950s, multi-colored tribal shemagh were used widely; nowadays, these are mostly worn only in Yemen and Oman, while the black/white, red/white or pure-white styles have come to dominate in the countries of the Persian Gulf and Levant. The shemagh is part of an ancient Middle Eastern headgear tradition.
In Malaysia, the keffiyeh has been worn by Muslim women as one of hijab fashion and during Palestinian struggle against Israel that has caught the attention of international media, many Malaysians wore it to show solidarity action for Palestine.
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 ḥaṭṭah. Roughly speaking:
A piece of white/orange/black cloth made from wool and cotton, worn primarily by Palestinians.
A piece of cloth, usually made of cotton or flax and decorated with many colors, but usually red and white; worn primarily by Saudi Arabians and Jordanians.
A piece of white cloth made of cotton mild, worn in western Iraq and by the Arabs of the Persian Gulf states.
For a video on how to tie a keffiyeh, click HERE.
It is worn by inhabitants of North Africa and Egypt.