One piece of travel gear that i never leave home without is my Keffiyeh.

Dictionary definition :- The keffiyeh (Arabic: كوفية‎, kūfiyyah, plural كوفيات, kūfiyyāt)), also known as a (ya)shmagh (from Turkish: yaşmak “tied thing”), ghutrah (غترة), ḥaṭṭah (حطّة) or mashadah (مشدة) is a traditional headdress for Arab men made of a square of cloth (“scarf”), usually cotton, folded and wrapped in various styles around the head.

Wearing my Keffiyah in Philippines

Wearing my Keffiyah as a neck wear in Philippines

This piece of cloth is so light, doesn’t take up any room in my backpack but is such a useful bit of kit to have.It is worn mainly around the neck or as a head covering.

The traditional keffiyeh is either black and white or red and white and in the 70’s it became a symbol of the Palestinian Liberation Movement ( PLO ) and in particular Yasser Arafat. Some people wore the keffiyeh in solidarity with the PLO. Even today it is best to be cautious when in the Middle East as the red and black colours signify which tribe you belong to and where your allegiances lie.

wearing keffiyahs Traditional dress in Dubai teashop

Traditional dress in Dubai teashop

The keffiyeh became popular fashion accessory in the 90’s and was adopted by many travellers and backpackers as a scarf/headcover. It  could be seen everywhere from the USA to Japan being worn by young people.  Its history goes back over 100 years but its origin is still not known.

I was watching a basketball game in the Philippines last year when one of the players fell and fractured his arm. There wasn’t any first aid team there to help him. Luckily i had my Keffiyeh in my backpack so was able to take it out and use it as a sling for his arm to rest in while he made the journey to hospital in the next town.

Keffiyeh protecting head and neck from sun

Keffiyeh protecting head and neck from sun

A Keffiyeh with its dimensions being around 1m2, has many other uses that the traveller can adapt it to. Here are a few examples

  1. Headwear
  2. Scarf round the neck
  3. table cloth
  4. picnic ground cloth
  5. a sling for broken arms in emergency
  6. taking dirty clothes to the laundry
  7. a vagabond bag on end of a stick
  8. a towel
  9. a cover on those cold a/c buses
  10. roll into a ball and use as a pillow
  11. eye cover for sleeping on buses and trains
  12. emergency use as a bandage
  13. hammock or swing for a baby
  14. facial dust protector
  15. tie the ends together for a shopping bag to take to the market
  16. curtain for those bare windows
  17. tie on a stick for a flag to attract attention

I am sure that there are many other uses too.

Keffiyeh neckwarmer is keeping me warm in london

Keffiyeh used as neckwarmer is keeping me warm in london

Have you ever used a keffiyeh for anything else? Let us know in the comments below.




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