Iraqi Culture Smart Card

Really, really, looks like one of those strategy game production & hotkey cards for no apparent reason, but it’s actually pretty neat. I love the drawings of the the guys wearing the kaffiyehs (?).

It is pretty interesting, never knew that the colors on the kaffiyehs meant something. Just always assumed the colors and patterns were just different cosmetic styles.

Well, there are meanings, but the card is flat-out wrong. Colors are a regional thing, with ethnic undertones. For example, in Jordan, you’re more likely to see the black-and-white checkerboard style in the south, or among the Palestinian population. Red and white is more predominant in the north, but even there you’re more likely to see the black and white. Pure white is generally a Saudi/Gulf states tradition; you don’t see this style outside of that area, for the most part (although it seems to be more popular in rural and desert areas in other Arab countries).

Anyhow, the guidelines in this US army smartcard are way off about styles/colors being linked to particular nations based on monarchy (that’s completely absurd, since most Arabs consider themselves part of an Arab nation first, and Egyptians, Jordanians, etc. second), or Hajj pilgrimage. I don’t know where the author came up with the idea that only those who haven’t been to Mecca could wear a white kaffiyeh, especially since you see most Saudis wearing them.

The difference between different colors and styles of wearing kaffiyehs is about as culturally important in the Arab world as the difference between wearing a cowboy hat and a ballcap in the US. Some of the other stuff mentioned in the card is important, though. Especially that “don’t expose the soles of your feet” thing. When sitting down in public, you have to cross your legs in a distinctly swishy style, otherwise you expose the sole of one foot and express disdain for your surroundings. Not a great move, especially when sitting in a shop haggling over a really cool argielah. ;-)

Oh, and I’m pretty sure that bin Laden wears a white kaffiyeh, too. Again, how did the US military get the idea that anyone wearing one has never made the pilgrimage to Mecca?

Beats me. I tried to ask about it at the intel brief where we got these little cards issued, but there was, how you say, an imbalance of power between the guys handing them out and those of us being briefed. On the plus side, I suppose it is a better mistaken idea than the previous popular belief that it served to contain the lice.