The Keffiyeh (ka-fee-ya) better known as a Shemagh (sha-mah) is a traditional Arab head dress fashioned from a square, usually soft woven cotton (kind of like a giant heavyweight bandana.) The common sizes that are for sale are 42” x 42” but the traditional sizes are 44” x 44”.
The Shemagh’s distinctive woven “check” pattern is believed to have originated in an ancient Mesopotamian representation of either fishing nets or ears of grain, but the true origin of the pattern remains unknown.
It’s actually a Multi-Purpose item. In my survival classes I preach the usage of tools and items with multiple purposes to all of my students.
You may recognize the Shemagh as a traditional headscarf which is worn in most Arab nations. Unfortunately, because of ignorance throughout the world, the Shemagh often gets a bad “wrap” (no pun intended).
The Shemagh is commonly found in arid regions of the world and provides protection from direct sun exposure, as well as offers protection to the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand.
For decades The Shemagh has been issued to British soldiers. It’s use dates back to before WW2. Because of its versatility, it has been adopted by Police and Military forces all over the middle east. In fact, since the beginning of the War on Terror, The Shemagh has been adopted by US troops as well, which is actually a reversal of a previous policy in which they were strictly forbidden during the Gulf War. The options that The Shemagh offers in an arid environment, such as in Iraq, explains it’s increasing popularity with soldiers.
British Colonel T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) was probably the best-known Western wearer of the Shemagh. He wore a plain white one during his involvement in the Arab revolt in WWI. The Shemagh and Col. Lawrence were later popularized in the epic film about his life “Lawrence of Arabia” in which he was played by Peter O’Toole.
In my opinion it’s more useful than a bandana, It can be used for:
-As a Towel.
-For Warmth…you can Wrap it around your neck as a scarf.
-As a Sweat Rag.
-For medical purposes such as an Arm Sling, Emergency Bandage or Tourniquet.
-As a Weapon. Twist a big rock up in the middle and hurl it at a target.
-As Rope or cordage.
-As a Water Filter.
-As a Pot Holder. Take that boiling water you just filtered off the fire.
-For Keeping Cool. Soak in cold water or wrap w/ice around your neck.
-As a Signal Flag.
-To Mark a Trail
-For Toilet Paper. (In case the crap really does it the fan.)
Whatever you decide to do with the Shemagh, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a versatile tool that I carry with me any time I travel or am at the range.