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What in the World is a Shemagh?

February 13, 2017
Travel Tips

And how do you even say that?

I will be totally honest. I have no clue how to pronounce this. What I do know is that it is super useful.

Shemagh, also called a Keffiyeh, is basically a heavyweight, large bandanna. Turkish blankets are similar to shemaghs as well in their uses and appearance. I try to bring one along wherever I go, even if I am just going to downtown Seattle in my home state of Washington. Shemaghs are traditionally used in Arab nations to guard their faces and bodies from the harmful rays of the sun as well as sand and dust. For this reason, shemaghs have a bit of a bad reputation in some cultures (*cough*racists*cough*) but they are incredibly useful. And cute! 

What can a Turkish blanked or Shemagh be used for? 

This list could go on for days. But here are a few quick examples! 

  • Dust Protection: If you are going to a desert location or where there will be a lot of wind and dust, you can put a shemagh over your nose and mouth to make sure you don't have a smile full of sand
  • Sun Protection: So useful already! I am very fair skinned (If you haven't guessed that by the red hair and Icelandic heritage...) so these are perfect to make sure my scalp doesn't get burnt. It is also good for shielding your forehead!
  • Towel: Many hostels don't offer towels (and you might not want to take one of those anyway) and sometimes you end up on a boat or at a beach.
  • Scarf: I think this is pretty obvious? Wrap it around your neck/face/head whatever and you have a cute new look
  • Cover your valuables: if you stop at a cafe or restaurant and you are concerned about your gleaming, brand spankin' new Canon camera, you may want to cover it up

Obviously these aren't new concepts. You may be wondering "Why can't I just use a towel?" "Can I have a regular scarf?" "But really, how do you say that?" 

BUT-using this one item for all of these different purposes saves you a lot of room in your travel bags. You can even just wear it on the plane and use it as a blanket for those chilly flights.

I personally like Turkish towels because they come in a wider variety of patterns and colors than I could find in shemaghs.

Turkish Towels 


Hey hey. This post contains affiliate links. These add no additional cost to your purchase but I do earn a small commission on any purchases made through these links. This helps me cover my blogging and travel expenses! 

Siggi Einarson

My name is Siggi-dubbed by my American friends because of the Icelandic yogurt-I am a writer, polyglot, and aspiring expat, not a cup of yogurt (unfortunately).

My love for travelling began with a trip to Iceland and Sweden to visit my family when I was just 15 years old. I spent so long dreaming of the possibilities of life abroad but I always figured these dreams were too far reached. Flash forward almost 10 years, here I am again, both cursing and thanking this damn travel bug.

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