Remembering Arafat

As details of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s demise emerge, his influence continues to have an impact in lives close to a decade after his death. One of the ways his life has influence in his absence is the trademark scarf he always donned that has now become a symbol of justice seekers.

As details of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s demise emerge, his influence continues to have an impact in lives close to a decade after his death. One of the ways his life has influence in his absence is the trademark scarf he always donned that has now become a symbol of justice seekers.

The scarf, previously in either black and white or red and white, is now in several colours and comes in almost all imaginable sizes.  Keffiyeh (as it is known in the Arab world,) was used for the purpose of shielding men in the desert from direct sun exposure and protect the mouth and nose from dust particles and sand.

Though previously worn by Arabs all over the Middle East, it rose to fame on Arafat’s shoulders as a Palestinian national symbol at the beginning of the country’s movements.

The foreign military operatives in the region soon caught up with the scarves and as most clothes worn over war time, it was picked up by the west as a fashionable fad. Some picked it up to be controversial and show support for  socialism inspired liberal opinions while others picked it up to seem cool. For whatever reasons they choose to have it, it’s a trend. Its new wearers preferred draping it over their shoulders as opposed to covering their heads. This is by folding it into half in a triangular shape.

As the cold and rainy season draws in, Arafat’s symbol comes in handy to insulate from the cold weather and still keep one looking trendy.

The scarf comes in a range of colours and sizes making it easy to pair with the rest of the outfit. The various varieties and variations make it possible for the wearer to choose the ideal one for them, those who would like it as a fashion statement and not a scarf to keep them warm. These are usually lighter and made from cotton and wool.

Others made solely from cotton are usually heavier and warmer. The scarf goes well with casual outfits though a daring soul can drape it over official clothes.

The scarf is still considered Muslim attire and wearers are at times advised to show respect by wearing it conservatively and refraining from wearing it in places the religion frowns upon like gambling dens or bars.

In Kigali, the scarf goes for between Rwf 3500 (in second hand markets) and Rwf 11,000 in shops depending on the quality.

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