The Iconic Scarf That Distributed the Middle East

Learn about the headdress that traveled around the world.

You have surely seen one of these scarves in a movie, real life, or even a video game. Have you ever thought about where the idea of this scarf came from?

Unfortunately, the media and some video games often show it as a cloth that terrorists wear. Maybe because it is used widely in several regions nowadays. Some movies bring it as a cloth for a rich man who throws his money on some business.

But the story behind these headwears belongs to an old tradition in between the middle eastern societies.

A Palestinian farmer picking olives, by rose Yaseen from Flickr

It has been known about the farmers in the rural areas of the Levant to wear a scarf that covers their head from the sunlight and face from the dust. It was used to wipe their sweat while tilling their land. You can say it’s like the Cowboy hat but in the middle east. However, this type of scarves was a part of the people’s culture in the countryside as well.

You will notice the Mukhtar (the village chief ), as well as old men wearing it. Also, the villagers used to wear it on special occasions such as wedding ceremonies or a gathering for a photograph.

The Political Scene

The Arab scarf got famous in the mid of the 20th century during the British and French colonization in the middle east, particularly when the Arab revolt in Palestine started. Later, it became a symbol that represents the Palestinians globally. You may notice the red headdress is used by the royal Jordanian army as well.

The Desert of Loving Poets

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

In the Arab desert, on the other hand, the Beduins used to wear the scarf while traveling from a place to another for similar reasons of why the farmers use it. ِIt is a part of their dress that has persisted until today. The different colors of scarves refer to the civilizations that raised in Mesopotamia simulating the nature of the common works they had at that time, e.g. Sailing and farming.

Within time this headwear/Scarf got popular widely in the middle east and it became an icon to some cultures:

Photo from Flickr

The Kufeya/Hatta: It’s a white headdress decorated with black longitudinal and latitudinal lines. It is popular especially in Palestine and used commonly in Iraq and Syria. The name Kufeya refers to the Kufa city in Iraq. While Hatta is another Arabic name that means headdress.

Photo from Flickr

Ghutra/Shemagh(Pronounced Ishmagh): Another general name for headdress in the Arab countries else than Palestine. It’s said that Shemagh is taken from two Sumerian words Ish-Magh, which means headdress. Shemagh is similar to Kufeya but decorated with red embossing. It could be plain white in some societies like Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.

Nowadays this type of headdress is used in other countries else than the middle east despite it usually does not look the same as the original designs.

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