How To Tie a Shemagh or Keffiyeh: History, Benefits, And Methods To Tie Properly

The Keffiyeh or shemagh is a traditional headdress made from a square cotton scarf in Middle Eastern countries. It is worn by Arab people, Iranic nomads, especially the Kurdish people, and the Mizrahi Jews.

Keffiyeh means the city of Kufa, an Iraqi town on the Euphrates River. Keffiyeh is also called as 'hattah', 'mashadah', 'cemedani', or 'chafiye'.

Keffiyeh is worn in arid regions to protect the skin against sand, dust, and sunburn. It has a woven checkerboard pattern that makes it distinctive from other cloth. It is said that the pattern originated in an ancient Mesopotamian representation of grain or fishing nets.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, the Keffiyeh became a fashion accessory in America and other parts of the world. It also became popular in Asia when people wore it with camouflage clothes.

This article will discuss when and where Keffiyeh originated and its benefits. Furthermore, we will also tackle how to tie a keffiyeh properly.

History of Keffiyeh

How To Tie a Shemagh or Keffiyeh: History, Benefits, And Methods To Tie Properly

The Keffiyeh has a long history. Before it became popular internationally, it was used by Arab peasants and Bedouins for centuries to protect themselves from dust, sand, sunburn, plus the coldness of the winter.

In the early 20th century, the Bedouins and the peasants traveled across cities and countries. Thus, more people found out about the Keffiyeh.

Meanwhile, in 1936, the peasants and the Palestinian villagers had an Arab Revolt against Zionist and British colonial forces. The Palestinians used the Keffiyeh as a symbol of resistance and to distinguish themselves from other people.

Ultimately, the Keffiyeh became a symbol of solidarity. The Keffiyeh became popular in the 1960s as Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian forces wore it to fight against the Israelis. His strength and leadership made it a famous symbol of resistance.

Several political activities and hipsters used the Keffiyeh in the 1970s to 1980s, and ultimately, it became a trend in the West.

In 2007, the Keffiyeh went at its height, and it became a fashion accessory. Until today, Keffiyeh is used as an adornment and protection, especially when traveling.

Keffiyeh Variations

How To Tie a Shemagh or Keffiyeh: History, Benefits, And Methods To Tie Properly

The keffiyehs worn by the Palestinians are now a mixture of wool and cotton to enable quick drying and keep the wearers' heads warm. It is folded in half like a triangle and worn across the forehead.

Often, it is held in place by an 'agal' or a rope circle. It is available in white, orange, and black colors. Some people wear the shemagh into a turban, while others wear it loosely on the back and shoulders.

In the past, people wore the Keffiyeh with the 'taqiyah cap' or wrapped around the rim of a 'fez cap.' The red and white Keffiyeh, known as' shemagh, is popular in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes, it has tassels on its sides that indicate status symbols. It is made of cotton or flax. The bigger the tassel, the higher the wearer's status in society. Meanwhile, the Keffiyeh in Yemen is available in red and black-white patterns.

Benefits of using a Keffiyeh

How To Tie a Shemagh or Keffiyeh: History, Benefits, And Methods To Tie Properly

A keffiyeh has many uses and benefits, especially when traveling. First, it can protect the wearers from dust, sand, and sun. You can use it to cover the face and the head, especially when traveling on motorcycles, horses, camels, etc., especially under the sun's scorching heat.

Meanwhile, the Keffiyeh can warm you if you travel on cold nights, especially in the desert. Just wrap it around your head and neck to survive the cold night.

Second, the Keffiyeh can be used as a cloth to wipe the excessive sweat in your body. It is useful when hiking, running, or doing other extreme activities. It is small, fast-drying, and lightweight. Thus, the sweat that it absorbs will dry fast as you travel. You can also use the Keffiyeh as a ground cloth when you sit on the ground.

Third, the Keffiyeh can be used as a pillow, blanket, and eye mask, especially when sleeping. Sometimes, you sleep outdoors without luxurious accessories, and the Keffiyeh can do the magic. It can't give you a sound sleep. However, this cloth is better than nothing at all.

Fourth, it can be used apart from a body cover. It can be used as a hobo sack/ bag to hold a few valuables, an arm sling when you accidentally break an arm, a bandage/ tourniquet when you are bleeding, a rope to hold a few things, a weapon as self-defense by turning it in a flail with a rock or a sling, and a signal flag if you need to get someone's attention, especially in the wild.

Furthermore, if you use your imagination, it can be used as a baby hammock, a baby wrap, and many other things.

Different Ways to Wear a Shemagh

Cowboy/ Bandana/ Cool scarf method

Try this method to look fashionable when using a keffiyeh and have good protection against the wind. The steps are the following:

Fold the cloth and create a triangle out of it.

Wrap the edge and fold it on your nose and mouth. Make sure that the lower half of your face is covered with the other half of the triangle.

Take the right and left corners on the back of your neck, cover the shoulders, and cross the ends on top of the other without making a knot.

Next, put the two ends of the cloth from the back of your neck to the front of your shoulders and tie it just right. Again, the knot shouldn't be so tight that you find breathing difficult, but not too loose so the Keffiyeh doesn't hold.

Tuck the remaining portion of the cloth inside your jacket if you wish to prevent the dust from getting inside your nose or mouth.

On the other hand, if you wish to hide the remaining cloth, you can tie them in another knot beneath the lower corner of the Keffiyeh.

If the wind has stopped, you can bring down the cover of your nose and mouth and put the Keffiyeh on your neck. Adjust the cloth if necessary.

Tactical/ Military Method


This method is used for increased protection against debris because it offers more airways coverage. It also protects the head. The steps are the following:

Open the shemagh in a full square and fold it into two until it becomes a triangle.

Next, cover your forehead with the folded edge. Place the cloth in the Middle of your forehead and ensure that the right portion is almost half longer than the left one.

After that, place the left side of the cloth under your chin and hold it in place using your right hand.

Please take the right side of the Keffiyeh, place it on your nose and mouth, and wrap it around your head until its end meets the end of the left side of the cloth.

Tie the two ends of the cloth. Again, make sure that it's not too loose that the Keffiyeh falls and not too tight that you can't breathe properly. Adjust the cloth if necessary.

Traditional Way

The last and most common method is to wear the shemagh traditionally. This best protects the face, mouth, and nose against dust, fire, or other environmental elements. Here are the steps:

First, fold the cloth in half and make it a triangle.

Next, cover your forehead with the folded edge. Place the cloth in the Middle of your forehead and ensure the ends are equal on both sides.

Then, place the right side of the Keffiyeh underneath your chin. Take its end on your left side and left shoulder. Hold it steady for a while using now your left hand.

Now, place the left side of the Keffiyeh over your face and pull it to the right using your right hand. Cover your mouth and nose.

Knot the two ends of the Keffiyeh behind your head just right. Ensure that it's not too loose that the Keffiyeh falls and not too tight that you can't breathe properly. Adjust the Keffiyeh when necessary.

    Tips on how to buy a Shemagh

    Now that we know how to tie a shemagh, it's time to know what to look for in buying one. Buying one can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if it's your first time.

    Thus, these are some of the features that you should check out in choosing a shemagh in the market:


    A light-colored shemagh is recommended if you plan to use it in warm and sunny weather. Choose darker colors like black or red if you plan to use them during cold and cloudy weather. Be careful in using a shemagh when visiting Arab countries or wearing one to make a political statement.


    Check if the product is comfortable in your skin and other body parts. You will be wrapping the Keffiyeh around your neck, head, and face; thus, it mustn't irritate you. Make sure not to buy a product because it only looks good but doesn't feel good. Its comfort must be your top priority.


    An item that can easily be damaged is a bad investment for a keffiyeh. Thus, make sure that the product you're buying is durable. Check the craftsmanship of the Keffiyeh, such as its seams. Sometimes, investing money in a good product manufactured by a trusted company can save you from hassle. You can also confidently use the product no matter where you go.


    How To Tie a Shemagh or Keffiyeh: History, Benefits, And Methods To Tie Properly

    In buying a shemagh or Keffiyeh, always choose the best material, which is cotton. A cotton shemagh is sturdy and lightweight. It is helpful if you need an additional and urgent bag when traveling. It is resistant, and it can work in many ways.

    Cotton keffiyeh can dry immediately, especially when you use it as a towel to wipe your excessive sweat and moisture from rain or snow during summer days. Lastly, a cotton keffiyeh can keep your body's temperature constant and protect you from heat or cold.


    Keffiyeh comes in various kinds according to its weight. If you wish to use a keffiyeh as a blanket to protect your body against the cold weather, then a heavy product is best for you. But a lighter product is recommended if you use a keffiyeh to protect yourself from the sun or use one for fashion.


    Size is also important to look out for when buying a keffiyeh. Opt for a bigger product if you wish to use it often on camping, hiking, or other outdoor activities. However, a smaller size can be useful if you use it for fashion or other uses.


    In sum, a keffiyeh is a widely used product today. It embodies the beautiful culture of our Arabian brothers, which has been honed through time. This cloth has been used to symbolize unity and political ideology of many organizations worldwide.

    Furthermore, it is a useful adornment to protect the face and other body parts from weather conditions. It has helped people survive outdoors for many years, and it will be used by many people in the future.

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