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#1
Old 02-09-2005, 08:53 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: SE USA
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Traditional Saudi headress pattern -- Why red and white check pattern?

I was watching the Frontline on the house of Saud last night and there appeared to be two different headresses used by the Saudis. One was plain white and the other was a red and white check pattern. The check pattern, if the squares were larger, looked like what would be under a raffi coated chianti bottle candlestick in an Italian restaurant.

My question is what is the significance of the colors/pattern.
#2
Old 02-09-2005, 09:34 AM
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Location: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
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Well first off, the gutrah is not a long-standing tradition. In the time of the Prophet, people wore turbans.

Men here are encouraged to wear the long robe (a thobe) and gutrah. It is sort of a national uniform. A Saudi must wear this at work, school or when trying to get something from a government office.

Still, there is latitude.

It is winter here now. Men mostly wear white thobes, but some are wearing black or olive green. My friends say in the old days these colors hid the mud. Even the white ones come in a pale yellow.

The headpiece is red and white for Saudis (mostly) black an white for Palestinians (mostly) and like that. Still locals wear white ones (considered more elegant), and some with a white and butterscotch pattern.

Very religious people wear a shorter than normal thobe and no ropes on the headpiece.

Why? I have no idea, and I cannot quickly find out as I am about to leave on vacation.

Smarter people will be along shortly.
#3
Old 02-09-2005, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul in Saudi
A Saudi must wear this at work, school or when trying to get something from a government office.

The headpiece is red and white for Saudis (mostly) black an white for Palestinians (mostly) and like that. Still locals wear white ones (considered more elegant), and some with a white and butterscotch pattern.

Very religious people wear a shorter than normal thobe and no ropes on the headpiece.
Hmm... that makes it sound like the black tie/semi-formal/business casual definitions of western dress (don't show up in court wearing jeans). I've heard that it was more akin to Scottish tartan patterns, with plain white as a show of setting differences aside & different patterns to identify different groups.

Didn't Arafat usually wear a red & white patterned headpiece though? Was he of Saudi decent?
#4
Old 02-09-2005, 02:22 PM
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Arafat wore a black and white kaffiyah. Supposedly in the shape of Gaza (or was it the West Bank?) off of one shoulder, but I had trouble noticing the resemblance.

BTW, the cloth part is the kaffiyah, the ring is called the agal and the combination of those are collectively known as the gutrah. Tassles on the ring, if you have tassles, are IIRC karkeesha. I'm transliterating from the Arabic so you'll see a wide range of spelling on these.

The red and white pattern was explained to me in neighboring Qatar as more of a Bedouin thing, and many of the families who had ties inland (toward and traditionally from Saudi) wore those. Folks from the city traditionally wore the white ones most of the time. There are actually two slightly different patterns of red and white, a matter of personal preference as best as I could determine, with a slight emphasis of one color over the other. (You'll also see black and white and green and white for sale in the shops where this stuff is sold, but I never saw Gulf Arabs wear these.)

All of them appear to be made in China nowadays, so I suppose the manufacturer makes whatever they think will sell.

You buy the gutra seperately from the thaube (neck to ankle garment), which is a trip to the tailor's shop. (I have a thaube and 2 gutrahs at home as well as a couple other kaffiyah from N Africa.)

The white cloth is much lighter in weight than the checkered cloths, which depending on need (are you using it keep sand out of your face today or going to a formal event?) could weigh in to which a guy wears. Usually I saw guys stick to one or the other every day. Since a lot of guys like to wear one or both flaps "up" (this is pretty much the equivalent of choosing which knot to tie your tie in... the popular "both flaps up" being "the cobra!") they will often have the kaffiyah starched to aid this. That's a lot harder to do with the white ones.

he only time I'd ever see a man wear the formal black-with-gold-trim robe over top of the thaube was either royalty on TV or grooms at their wedding.

From North Africa to Iraq, black and white is the most common. These are usually lighter material than the red a nd white Gulf ones, and are more frequently used as scarves and or head/facial covering to keep the sand off. Many of them have cloth tassles hanging off their edges, which you don't really see in the Gulf (neat hems.)

You can often pick up which country a guy is from by looking at his gutrah. The Emiratis wear three different muted (the muted part I think is a southern Arabian penninsular thing), checkered colors and have a method of sort of tying the kaffiyah around the head before placing the agal on top. I think they just pick a color they like. The Qatari will wear either the red and white or all white but will always sport 4 tassles on the agal, which is unique to them.

If you look closely it's really not a neat Italian tablecloth check at all (actually some of the Emirati ones may be) but a pattern with more of a slant/kink to it.

You won't see Arabs outside of the Gulf wear the red and white so much because that's looked at as a marker of identity which others don't share so much. You also have class issues; Gulf Arabs aren't going to wear the patterns of people they kinda look down on and poorer Arab populations aren't going to wear the gear of people they may perceive as conceited fops.

Hope this was helpful; you may want to think of these things in terms of, say, formal here in the states, what with regular suits, tuxes, bow ties, different sorts of knots in ties and regional formal wear like bolo ties, western shirts and formal cowboy boots etc. There are some rough parallels.
#5
Old 02-09-2005, 04:40 PM
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Very slight hijack:

My husband recently lost his favorite kaffiyah, one he'd bought on his first trip to the middle east, in Egypt, more than a decade ago. He has a couple of others that aren't as nice. He wore his favorite one in cold weather as a scarf--very soft and relatively thick cotton, with fringes, black and white. (He's a nice mongrel-European American boy from New England, but that trip to Egypt got him interested in learning Arabic, which led to his becoming a linguist; Arabic is the language he uses most in his work now, after English.)

He really misses his kaffiyah and is pining for a replacement. I haven't been able to find any online that look like quality. Any suggestions?
#6
Old 02-09-2005, 05:11 PM
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No problem with hijacking the thread. I think my curiosity to the patterns and colors has been sated. Thanks for the help, all.
XW
#7
Old 02-09-2005, 06:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emilyforce
He really misses his kaffiyah and is pining for a replacement. I haven't been able to find any online that look like quality. Any suggestions?
There are probably plenty of "Muslim supply" (Qurans, scented oils and the like) stores that carry a variety you could pick through in Austin (maybe?) but certainly in Houston if you ever find yourself there.
#8
Old 02-09-2005, 06:34 PM
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Hmmn. Not sure if we have any in Austin. The Arabic Bazaar here, otherwise one of our favorite shops, only has the thin ones. We never get to Houston. Any online suggestions?
#9
Old 02-09-2005, 08:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emilyforce
Any online suggestions?
Unfortunately I don't as I arguably have 3 more than I need (that is, 3 total) at home and never went shopping for more. Maybe you could ask at a local Middle Eastern restaurant or deli? I should think a hip college town like Austin is bound to have some of those.

Otherwise they're readily available in the Mid-East and maybe a Doper who's there now would volunteer to send one?
#10
Old 02-09-2005, 09:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crandolph
Otherwise they're readily available in the Mid-East and maybe a Doper who's there now would volunteer to send one?
Next time I head over, let me know and I'll keep my eyes open.

One question though: How does one keep the agal fastened to the kaffiyah fastened to one's head? I've seen common folk bow to royalty before, and their gutrah in whole or in parts slide off. Is it with bobby or straight pins?

Tripler
And yes, I've met Qatari royalty before. I just didn't know it at the time, but I was polite nonetheless.
#11
Old 02-10-2005, 02:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crandolph
Arafat wore a black and white kaffiyah. Supposedly in the shape of Gaza (or was it the West Bank?) off of one shoulder, but I had trouble noticing the resemblance.
It was supposed to be a map of Greater Palestine - in other words, all of modern Israel, which someday would be returned to the Palestinians. Just another of those biographical tidbits that so endeared him to the Israeli public.
#12
Old 02-10-2005, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tripler
One question though: How does one keep the agal fastened to the kaffiyah fastened to one's head? I've seen common folk bow to royalty before, and their gutrah in whole or in parts slide off. Is it with bobby or straight pins?
No pins at all. It's partially just gravity (the agal is fairly dense) and partially shaping it to your head a bit and shoving it down to a certain point of your skull. I sometimes had a little trouble keeping mine on when getting on and off the ground to eat at weddings.

Quote:
And yes, I've met Qatari royalty before. I just didn't know it at the time, but I was polite nonetheless.
Sometimes it seems every fourth citizen is royalty at some level!

Quote:
It was supposed to be a map of Greater Palestine - in other words, all of modern Israel
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