Shemagh / Keffiyeh

The shemagh (kūfiyyah, kūfiyyāt), also known as a (ya)shmagh (Turkish: yaşmak "tied thing"), ghutrah or mashadah is a traditional headdress for Arab men made of a square cloth (“scarf”), usually cotton, folded and wrapped in various styles around the head. It is commonly found in arid climate areas to provide protection from direct sun exposure, as well as for occasional use in protecting the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand.

Many Palestinian shemagh are a mix of cotton and wool, which lets them dry quickly and keep the wearer’s head warm. The shemagh is usually folded in half, into a triangle, and the fold is worn across the forehead. Often, the shemagh is held in place by a rope circlet, called an agal. Some wearers wrap the shemagh into a turban, while others wear it loosely draped around the back and shoulders. The shemagh is almost always of white cotton cloth, but many have a checkered pattern in red or black stitched into them.

The black-and-white shemagh is a symbol of Palestinian heritage. The red-and-white shemagh is worn throughout these regions as well as in Somalia, but is most strongly associated with Jordan, where it is known as shmagh mhadab. The Jordanian shemagh has cotton decorative strings on the sides. It is believed that the bigger these strings, the more value it has and the higher a person’s status.