Keffiyeh (also known as “kufiyya”, “shemagh” or “ghutrah”) is a traditional headdress worn by men from the Middle East. In simple words, keffiyeh is a desert scarf, usually made of cotton, being mostly used in sandy or dusty regions, to provide face and head protection from sunburn, cold, dust and sand. In addition to it, arabs usually also use agal to keep keffiyeh in place.
Besides its protective function, keffiyeh is also used for various applied purposes: keffiyeh spread on the ground can be used instead of a tablecloth, folded several times — as a filter for water purification, tied around the waist — like a belt, twisted — instead of a rope to lift a load.
The different colors of the keffiyeh used to have historical significance: in order to distinguish “Palestinians” from “Jordanians”, the colonial military-police created by the British ordered the Jordanians to wear red-checked keffiyehs, and the Palestinians to wear black ones. In modern times, the color of keffiyeh often has no religious or political overtones.