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View Full Version : Traditional Arab keffiyeh headdress--used in Biblical times?


Spectre of Pithecanthropus
09-06-2009, 01:00 AM
(Like these (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh).)

The Arab turban or headdress has become a symbol of Arab unity, and in particular a sartorial symbol of Palestinian resistance. Not surprisingly, the style is usually despised and detested by those on the opposite side of that conflict. As it happens, the keffiyeh is an extremely practical garment for desert conditions, as I had the opportunity to discover years ago on a Coachella Valley camp-out, just north of the Salton Sea. It was late enough in the Spring for the weather to be extremely warm; but wearing a borrowed Keffiyeh which a fraternity brother had brought back from a trip to Egypt, I was fairly comfortable. Usually one wears the keffiyeh by folding the large square scarf along the diagonal and then draping the diagonal over your forehead. The scarf is kept in place by an aqal, a thick black cord that sits atop the head, rather than being tightly wound around it. The advantage of this is that the head and much of the face is protected from the sun, yet the scarf, with the help of the aqal is loose and comfortable rather than fitting tightly on the head the way a hat would. You don't get sweaty-hat-band syndrome. When worn this way, the desert breezes can flow through the cloth to cool your head, although presumably one does have to wear it more tightly in some conditions.

So is it possible that this type of headdress would have been worn by Jews in ancient times? Ever since I became aware of the difference, I've noticed that standard portrayals of Biblical events, whether concerning Abraham or the Disciples or anything in between, invariably show them wearing somewhat crude scarves tied tightly around the head. If the keffiyeh does go back to ancient times, wouldn't it be more reasonable to assume that the fashion also reached Israel?

constanze
09-06-2009, 04:37 AM
(Like these (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh).)

The Arab turban or headdress has become a symbol of Arab unity, and in particular a sartorial symbol of Palestinian resistance. Not surprisingly, the style is usually despised and detested by those on the opposite side of that conflict.

I thought only the black-and-white pattern of the keffiyeh, not the keffiyeh itself, was the symbol for the Palestinians?

As it happens, the keffiyeh is an extremely practical garment for desert conditions, as I had the opportunity to discover years ago on a Coachella Valley camp-out, just north of the Salton Sea.

The trick that a piece of cloth worn loosley to cover the neck also channels any stray breeze to cool the head is well-known by desert travellers and the reason for a variety of headgear on that principle.

So is it possible that this type of headdress would have been worn by Jews in ancient times? Ever since I became aware of the difference, I've noticed that standard portrayals of Biblical events, whether concerning Abraham or the Disciples or anything in between, invariably show them wearing somewhat crude scarves tied tightly around the head. [/quote]

I think that's just lazy artist syndrome, along with showing Jesus et al wearing what looks like bathrobes (to show that he's in the Middle East, or foreign parts, anyway), yet with a WASP face and with long hair like a hippy, not a typical Middle Eastern look you'd expect that time.
It's like the artists all through the Middle Ages depicting Biblical stories as happening now, with (at that time) contemporary clothing and European scenery.

If the keffiyeh does go back to ancient times, wouldn't it be more reasonable to assume that the fashion also reached Israel?

The type might have been adapted, but different cultures/ nations do not generally borrow from other cultures/nations 1:1.

The Burnous has a wide cowl that also keeps the head shadowed and is loose enough to be cool. Maybe the patriarchs wore that.

But it's an interesting question, and I wonder what the experts can tell us.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
09-06-2009, 11:56 AM
I thought only the black-and-white pattern of the keffiyeh, not the keffiyeh itself, was the symbol for the Palestinians?
]
I believe you are partly right about that, at least with respect to the color pattern. But the keffiyeh-and-aqal combination in any color is seen as specifically Arab, Palestinians being only one portion of that group.



The trick that a piece of cloth worn loosley to cover the neck also channels any stray breeze to cool the head is well-known by desert travellers and the reason for a variety of headgear on that principle.


Even so the Western adaptations are essentially elaborations of a basic hat or cap, which is fairly snug fitting.



So is it possible that this type of headdress would have been worn by Jews in ancient times? Ever since I became aware of the difference, I've noticed that standard portrayals of Biblical events, whether concerning Abraham or the Disciples or anything in between, invariably show them wearing somewhat crude scarves tied tightly around the head.

I think that's just lazy artist syndrome,

I have to agree with you here, but also wonder why they were so damn lazy! Once you understand the difference, it's about equivalent to simulating a genuine silk top-hat with black construction paper.

along with showing Jesus et al wearing what looks like bathrobes (to show that he's in the Middle East, or foreign parts, anyway), yet with a WASP face and with long hair like a hippy, not a typical Middle Eastern look you'd expect that time. It's like the artists all through the Middle Ages depicting Biblical stories as happening now, with (at that time) contemporary clothing and European scenery.
But this part I think is not lazy-artist syndrome, but just the ethnocentricism that afflicts virtually all cultures at one time or another.

I used to wonder about the references to snow in some religious Christmas carols; I am informed by my wife that it can get quite cold in Israel.

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