An Arab Bow Tie

If you haven’t read about my bow tie saga yet, this would be a good time. The short story: I randomly wore a bow tie one day and people liked it so much that I decided it would become my thing at this school. Since then, I have tried my hardest to introduce bow ties to the Arab culture – I got the school to manufacture school bow ties and started “Bow Tie Thursday,” where (so far) just barely more than a handful of kids sport a bow tie. It has been slowly catching on – I randomly see kids I have never talked to strolling around in bow ties on Thursdays. One of those moments happened last Thursday, so I tweeted this out of excitement:And I got this response, which I actually agreed wholeheartedly with:

But, but, but, hold the presses. I think I might have actually outdone myself. BEHOLD! The keffiyeh bow tie!
For those of you that don’t know what a keffiyeh is, it’s a beautiful traditional Arab headdress found throughout the Middle East. They protect from the harsh desert sun and also do well in the bitter desert cold. They come in many colors, which often signify various groups and countries – the red ones are associated with Jordan. Most have a very distinct, stately checked pattern. They have come to really represent the region and are a symbol that is still a huge part of Arab life and a point of genuine, unassuming pride. Students at school wear them as scarves when it’s cold out, many older men wear them daily. Lately, they have become somewhat trendy in the American hipster circles too. Here’s a run down of how to tie one on your head.

And in a wonderful blend of American and Jordanian culture, I now have a keffiyeh bow tie!

Here’s how this wonderful creation came about:

  • I went into Madaba with one of my bow ties and showed it to a tailor to see if she could sew something similar with any cloth. Of course she could.
  • I bought a keffiyeh from a nearby store for 2.50 JD (around $3.50) and brought it back to the tailor.
  • In less than a half hour, she cut it up, and sewed it while I drank tea with my barber whose shop is about 3 shops down. All for 2 JD (about $2.80).

So for less than $7 and less than 45 minutes, I got myself a beautiful, custom made bow tie. I wonder how expensive this would have been in the US. Needless to say, I’m freakin’ pumped to wear it to school tomorrow (even if it’s not bow tie Thursday).

Posted on October 15, 2011, in Bow Ties, Jordan, Living Abroad. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The red & white color scheme signify the Palestinian peoples representative of their heritage whereas the balck and white signify other…

    • well, it’s actually more complicated than either of us are making it. even though one color might be strongly associated with one regoin/political groupl/people, people wear lots of different ones. can’t tell by your comment exactly what you mean, but all i know is that red/white is strongly associated with jordan (though may be associated with other places too).

  2. Hi Bowman,

    I’ve stumbled onto your blog for entirely different reasons than math and bowties, but that’s the stuff that has kept me on your site, whittling away a much-needed prep period. I’m an expat math teacher in Morocco, also reppin’ Bow Tie Tuesday.

    Aside from bowties, your post about the disconnect between how we see math (the beautiful, logical, interconnected majesty of it all) and how students see math (a bunch of mundane, arduous BS that teachers make them to because we delight in their pain…) resonated with me. I feel much the same way, and I am continually work hard to help students see how much more there is to math than rote operations.

    I’d love to share more about math, teaching, expat living, Americans in MENA, our schools, our students, bowties… shoot me an e-mail when you can.


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