Monday 11 March 2024

OLS Reflections Eighty

OLS Reflections Eighty by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
The first list-article from the OLS Reflections series was published on 22 August 2014. Little did I know that it will last for ten years and counting. In it, I mention that the Pages Reflections file was 121 pages long and consisting of 38,998 words. A decade later today the same file is 2846 pages sporting 888,145 words — close to a million!

The series is comprised of reflections, introspections, observations, and philosophical poetry, as well as lessons learned through life experiences. There are also some thought-provoking questions and the occasional language-related joke or pun. Some 130 of them made it to Goodreads as quotes. Woot Woot.

I equally mention how the reflections may be grouped according to their level of seriousness. This eventually led to creating the humorous subcategory, the (un)fun sibling: OLS Reflections — The Unfun Ones, which for now makes up about 23 of the total 80 articles.

Links to the entire collection can be found below. Now Onward Forward: Here is the latest...

• Being alone tends to be feared by many as it’s widely regarded as the worst and scariest thing that could happen to one’s life. But it isn’t so. Lying to oneself is worse and scarier; because when done long enough people end up believing their own lies, failing to distinguish between the delusions and their actual inner truth. What follows, in the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky, is that “they lose respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect they cease to love”. A life without love then means bitter, alienating loneliness — especially with one’s own company and therefore also among others. That, my friends, is the real miserable tragedy.

on the other hand who learn to value and cherish their solitude end up becoming a celestial force of nature. 

• The sun does not apologise for its vibrancy
Nor the wind for its gust
The moon does not feel guilty that its lunacy
Does not always appear perfectly full around the crust
Brother, forget the ‘should’ and the ‘must’
Do what thou wilt with love and self-trust
Stay true to thyself, shine on with beaming lust
Keep flowing and glowing like our ancestors, the primordial stardust.

• There is something absorbingly soothing about listening to the sound of rolling waves while welcoming the rising sun. It has this magical ability to wash our spirit clean from all troubles and conflicts. In actuality, every sunrise signifies a new beginning; whether to be the best version of ourselves, to lead a more conscious, empathetic, compassionate existence, or to stop suffering.

You see, the very possibility that we can go to bed one night to never ever wake up ought to be that one catalyst enticing us to enjoy life to the fullest. That is, today, in the present Here and Now. Simply because life has an expiration date and tomorrow may never come. One way to do so is to connect with Nature; to build a lasting relationship with it. For we ARE Nature. We only seem to temporarily forget it — due to the distractions of life. But truly, it is the sobering realisation of the inevitability of our own mortality that tends to lead to awakening. 

Shine On & On.

• Poetry is whispered magic for the listening hearts. As an art form, it uses language to alter consciousness — allowing us to transcend reality as we know it.

• When what you love doing in life requires a certain degree of solitude and seclusion, there is a high chance that at some point it becomes addictive. These are the activities that inherently make one glow while radiating unfiltered passion right out the core of their every nerve ending. The reason being is that this kind of inner — and outer — meditative peace of mind and soul is rarely ever found around others. The same goes for drama, or lack of it. For the creative person such a Flow State of being remains essential.

By embracing solitude with open arms you naturally come to know yourself better. Another reward for digging deep into oneself is coming to equally know that, somehow, you are everyone and everyone is you — the consciousness of mankind. Then you are never truly alone, even when you are. Echoing with what Mark Twain had succinctly worded. Fortunately, aloneness and loneliness remain two different things.

Get into yourself and you will discover wonders.  

• Make it a habit to every once in a while spend time with people over 80 and children below 10. The experience of seeing the world through their eyes tends to enrich our palette of perspectives. 

• Forgive. Because you deserve to set yourself free. However, it is not always about forgiving others or being forgiven by them. Sometimes to be able to carry on living we must learn to forgive ourselves — for not knowing what we didn’t know at a certain point in time. Forgiveness then tends to breed empathy, compassion, and eventually self-love. 

• The feeling of being loved, even by your own self, catalyses a certain joie de vivre. People then tend to become better versions of themselves. In return, it makes loving others a much more natural and empathetic process. Truly, learning how to love yourself is the ultimate gift to yourself as well as to the world.
You see, love will never cancel or annihilate hate. It just helps forging us in a way that allows us to live in a world where both exist and yet empowers us to choose love — every time.

• “It must be strange to be considered normal or ordinary. It must be absurd not to see through the absurdities of life. But what is normal, ordinary, or absurd anyway? Who gets to choose or define these societal concepts, as in according to who? And do normal, ordinary people seem normal and ordinary because they like to see themselves as such? Because they strive to fit it within the societal status-quo norm of their time and place, hence project the corresponding image of their seemingly acceptable, polished-up, edited-out persona unto the outside world? Is that why certain people feel included and represented while others excluded and marginalised?

• She dances with her demons
While her angels sing along
Wears her skin so boldly and beautifully
Juggling two rights with every wrong. 



OLS Reflections

OLS Reflections Deux

OLS Reflections Vier

OLS Reflections Khamsa

OLS Reeflections Yedi

OLS Reflections 八

OLS Reflections Ten

OLS Reflections Onze

OLS Reflections 13

OLS Reflections Quince

OLS Reflections Sixteen

OLS Reflections Dix-Huit

OLS Reflections تسعة عشر

OLS Reflections Veinte Uno

OLS Reflections 22

OLS Reflections Dreiundzwanzig

OLS Reflections Twenty-Four

OLS Reflections Vingt-Six

OLS Reflections Ventisette

OLS Reflections Veintinueve
OLS Reflections 30

OLS Reflections Einunddreißig

OLS Reflections  إثنان وثلاثون

OLS Reflections Thirty-Three

OLS Reflections Trentaquattro

OLS Reflections 37

OLS Reflections Trente-Neuf

OLS Reflections Forty  

OLS Reflections Einundvierzig

OLS Reflections — The Spiritual Edition 

OLS Reflections Cuarenta y Cuatro

OLS Reflections 45

OLS Reflections Quarantasette

OLS Reflections — The Unpublished Edition

OLS Reflections Forty-Nine

OLS Reflections 50 

OLS Reflections Cincuenta y Dos

OLS Reflections Cinquantaquattro

OLS Reflections पचपन 

OLS Reflections 57

OLS Reflections Cinquante-Neuf

OLS Reflections Sesenta y Uno

OLS Reflections ثلاثة وستون 

OLS Reflections Soixante-Cinq

OLS Reflections 67

OLS Reflections Sixty-Eight 

OLS Reflections 69 
OLS Reflections Settanta­quattro
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Friday 5 January 2024

Words I Made Up — The Nineteenth

Omar Cherif in Dahab, Sinai, April 2023 - Words I Made Up — The Nineteenth, One Lucky Soul

Following a brief hiatus, here are ten new babies. Whenever the 
neologisms reach 200 words with the next list I will be compiling them all into a lighthearted book. Finally!

Psychedelicatessen: Retail establishment that sells a selection of fine, exotic, or foreign ready-to-consume hallucinogens.

• Gondonzola: Light flat-bottomed rowing boat steered by blue-cheese-eating Italians.

• Wontonness: The state of creating deliberate and unrestrained reckless havoc after ingesting a type of Chinese dumpling.

• Twolip: Genus of plants that resembles a mouth.

• Lumberjackoff: Annoying, obnoxious person who cuts down trees just for the hell of it.

• Apocalithp: Catastrophic event involving the demise and destruction of all people who lisp.

• Aghastronomy: The practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating shockingly horrifying food.

• Birday: The anniversary of the day on which an egg hatches.

• Chez Nanigans: Restaurant where devious and mischievous activities take place.

• Gassassin: Someone who murders a prominent person by farting on them.

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Saturday 12 August 2023

When The Sky Spoke Back

When The Sky Spoke Back by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

Flirting madly with the moon
Dancing naked in the sun
Sometimes a wild loon
Others son of a gun
Forever faltering and baltering to his own tune

Terrifyingly free yet unbearably all alone
That goon مجنون has no one to call his own

Kept seeking left and right before realising he was the one
Kept searching wrong and right then one day it was all done

You are The One, murmured a soothing voice
You are the one who has the choice

The one to ride the wave of life with all its ups and downs
Madcap laughters with sleepy children but also with sad clowns
Help dry his flowing tears to flash a smile and not a frown

Merry-go-round - Merry-go-round
Mary go round - Mary go round

The sound resound follow the hound
Through Le Rabbit Hole underground

Echoing in timeless caves
Humming in endless raves:

O’ Brother, you are The One
The one you’ve been waiting for
To liberate you — just point to the door

Step now into the darkness
Fear not, there is no harness

Magickal warrior of your own rhythm
Forget big words and their ism and schism

You are your fiercest enemy and your dearest ally
You are a sage and you are a lunatic
You are also The One who rises above both
Choosing which to side with the most
 — no lie

You are never alone, whispered the gentle voice
Feel IT all around you, silence the background noise

You are one with the consciousness of mankind
You are one with the tress and bees
You are one with the cats and dogs
The entire natural world with its sheer magnificent beauty

The earth, water, air, and fire
One with the Muses, Sirens, Nymphs, and Mermaids
You are the cosmic melody to which the faraway stars, planets, and galaxies are swirling and whirling — with no aid

Your hopes, dreams, fantasies, orgasms, and desires
Your fears, pains, doubts, sorrows, and addictions
Are all but mere manifestations of the Youniverse
Fleetingly and momentarily experiencing itself in the singular

Trust the process. Embrace it all. For Love is The Way
Or so they say

You carry the torch of your species and you always have a choice
Now own it, kiddo, giggled the Orphic voice.

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Wednesday 9 August 2023

Thinking Allowed Is Aloud

Thinking Allowed Is Aloud by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

Saw her walking on the beach
O’ what a sweet peach
So up there so out of reach
Lord. Pray on and preach
Nothing to learn or to teach
Nameless beauty — Sheesh! 
Desire is pleasurable
Glory to all edibles
Highly incredibles 
Bluntly, bearly bearables
A chari-table that is chairable
Beware! This rhyming is flammable

Words, my Friends, are jammable
But if you flinch, the rap may be intangible
Can you wrap…. your head… around it?
These verses, expandable
Nothing is expendable
What happened to the beach beauty
The glorious mermaid cutey?
Asks the curious reader
Says: “Get back to the meter”
All that can be said is the edibles kicked in
Feeling them down deep within
And I forgot why I wrote this silly poem
Maybe just something to show ‘em 
So I carried on and deviated
Now elated, satiated
Inebriated, curated
Playing around opens the door gated
Of minds that appreciate it. 
Allow me to indulge you into the intricate world of rhyme & meter I toy around with herein. 
Now, the poem starts with conforming rhymes and meters. But then right after the writer was hit by the edibles you can see the next couple of stanzas breaking away from all forms — even sense and reason, as well as one rhyme. Liberation at last! 
When the reader became seemingly bemused by the new chaos, asking about the origin and enticing the writer to return to the structure of the meter, he kind of does, but not perfectly as you can see in the last couple of stanzas. You know, because he is a rebel like that.
I think something that may be somewhat subconsciously inferred is that rules are made to be broken, and learning them first helps. 
Thinking Allowed Is Aloud (7)
Saw her walking on the beach (7)
O’ what a sweet peach (5)
So up there so out of reach (7)
Lord! Pray on and preach (5)
Nothing to learn or to teach (7)
Nameless beauty — Sheesh! (5)
Indescribable (5)
Immeasurable (5)
Desire is pleasurable (7)
Glory to all edibles (7)
Highly Incredibles (6)
Bluntly, bearly bearables (7)
A chari-table that is chairable (10)
Beware! This rhyming is flammable (9)
Instagrammable (5)
Words are jammable (6)
But if you flinch, the rap is intangible (11)
Can you wrap your head around it? (8)
These Verses, expandable (7)
Nothing is expendable (7) 
What happened to the beach beauty (8)
The glorious mermaid cutey? (8)
Asks the curious reader (7)
Says, “Get back to the meter” (7)
All that can be said is the edibles kicked in (12)
Feeling them down deep within (7)
And I forgot why I wrote this silly poem (12)
Maybe just something to show ‘em (8)
So I carried on and deviated (10)
Now elated, satiated (8)
Inebriated, curated (8)
Playing around opens the door gated (10)
Of minds that appreciate it. (8)
*Image: Artist unknown


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Monday 20 February 2023

Dance With Your Demons

Dance With Your Demons by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

Dance with your demons and your angels will clap and sing along.

What is usually referred to as “inner demons” are not actual malevolent beings or fiery entities with pointy horns and red pitchforks. They do not live in the closet or under the bed nor are they lurking in that dark alley. Personal demons are the mental struggle caused by the critical, negative, self-defeating and self-loathing reptilian voice we sometimes hear in our minds. It usually involves our own perceived flaws, weaknesses, imperfections, destructive tendencies, past traumatic experiences. They are the subconscious parts of our character or personality.

Having fear as a main driving force, inner demons are the primitive source of most of our problems. From anger, hatred, guilt and shame, to doubts, anxieties, insecurities, addictions, attachments, and limiting beliefs. If not tamed, they prevent humans from reaching their full potential while crippling their lives to a considerable degree.

Now, the subconscious mind is the intuitive, emotional mind. A reservoir of thoughts, feelings, memories, urges, desires residing outside of our conscious awareness. According to psychoanalysis, most of its content is deemed unacceptable and unpleasant, like repressed memories and feelings of fear, pain, anxiety. It embodies our deeper, shadowy, suppressed psychological side, which many spend a large portion of their lives trying to conceal from the world. The subconscious includes the aspects of the self that one hides, ignores, dislikes, disowns, or rejects — their vices, perceived flaws and imperfections, how they process their old wounds.

What makes the subconscious mind substantially powerful is that it is in charge of our brain’s activity and processing power during a staggering 95% of our lives. Naturally, such dominance is reflected on all our thoughts, emotions, decisions, judgments, behaviours, impulses, fantasies, as well as mental health. 

The internal self-talk is simply a byproduct of thoughts. When fed, identified with, believed it can become so potently dark, uncivilised, recurring, incessant, and convincing, it could direct one’s life — often subconsciously without them knowing. “I will never be able to do this”, “I am not worthy of love”, “I don’t matter”, “I am too damaged or weird or a freak” among other self-pitying beliefs our poor-li’l-me victim mentality tends to perpetuate.

Due to our formidable, restless, cunning imagination, we start relating to the very content of said monologue. Despite that it is largely filled with illusory conflicts and complicated scenarios, including the stories or the narratives we keep telling ourselves, which end up becoming internalised. But, We are NOT our thoughts, remember; for they come and go, they remain transient, temporary, ephemeral. Observing them objectively through impartial eyes allows us to see through our very own illusions. This spiritual awakening is the beginning of all wisdom and clarity.  

The following is a significantly illuminating part: According to research from Stanford University, out of the 60,000 thoughts the average human can have per day, 90% of them are repetitive and 80% are negative. Imagine the lunacy!

Thinking the same thoughts turned out to lead to making the same choices; same choices means same behaviours; same behaviours translates into same experiences; same experiences leads to same emotions; and same emotions generate the same thoughts — back to completing the self-destructive loop as one becomes stuck in certain thought-patterns.

Equally fascinating, Neuroscience has come to show that our biology, neural circuitry/chemistry/hormones, as well as genetic expression are all equal to how we think, act, and feel — that which constitute our personality. In other words, consciousness creates our personal reality.

As such, identifying with the unrefined, repetitive, mostly negative inner voice and being led by its neurotic nonsense remains the leading cause of a variety of mental and consequently physical health issues we suffer from.

Dance With Your Demons by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

ou see, when people are unconscious of their own dark sides if affects their personalities and influences their behaviour beyond their conscious awareness. They do not notice how they tend to project unrealised, unrecognised elements of their personalities by attributing them to another person or group. While the act may include positive characteristics, it usually focuses on negative ones. That means projecting the internal darkness outward into others and condemning evil in them; thereby transmuting the inner pain, self dislike, and disappointments into outward aggression. By doing so, they justify the darkness in others without ever admitting, or mayhap even accepting that darkness exists in them, too — at least to a certain degree. The more denial of the shadow, the more its power over us. Or as Carl Jung succinctly put it: “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.

Whenever thoughts, motivations, desires, or feelings are suppressed, as cannot be accepted as one’s own, they are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to others. It is precisely what makes us judge, categorise, castigate, and vilify. Truly, until one faces their own shadow they will keep encountering its reflection in others. This is the basis of Psychological Projection. 

Without awareness of the Shadow Self, or without being in touch with it, also translates as unfulfillment, resentment, low self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as reflects on how we view the world and on all our relationships. There is this internal void, which one attempts to fill using all sorts of distractions and things that are outside of themselves.

On the other hand, to truly Know Thyself means to courageously dive head-first deep into the abyss of our own being. Introspection and self-examination allow us to become aware of the innermost thoughts. Acknowledging followed by accepting the darkness become imperative if we want to understand the full psyche. 
The Shadow Work we do on ourselves, first pioneered by Jung, boils down to making the unconscious conscious. To be able to change, one needs to start thinking about their own thinking; observe their actions, habits, patterns, and behaviour. Accordingly, bring that which has been suppressed and repressed out toward the light of awareness, freeing us from the bondage of their shackles. Freedom means to be in the present Here and Now without translating it using past experiences. Because in terms of conscious experience, the time is always, always NOW; not in the past nor in the future. “The Work” is therefore the way to confront — and hopefully also cherish the demons — to summon them in the moment with the intention of becoming less fragmented and more grounded, balanced, and above all, whole.

Self-inquiry is rarely a walk in the park. At times it could certainly be uncomfortable, confusing, possibly also frightening to delve into your naked self and face your fears. But there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going. Seemingly paradoxically, the dark side retains its own glamour; that which is deemed wild, naughty, wicked and mischievous retain a certain forbidden allure or fascination within the psyche. Perhaps because they add contrast and hence also realness to our reality. As much as demons can be destructive, they can be creative just as well. For destruction tends to breed creation. That is part of their mystique, one could say.

So darkness itself is not the enemy, it is not something to fight nor despise. Darkness just is. It will always be there along with the light. Just as good and evil and positive and negative are complementary, one cannot exist without the other; for that’s how the cosmos is balanced. Inner demons, then, have a function, a necessity, and in the words of Gabor Maté, also deserves our compassion. They are a fundamental part of us after all.

Besides, demons are widely thought to have once been ‘fallen’ angels.
So they could be perceived as two sides of the same mythical coin. True mastery is simply how you handle your own internal voice during the awakening journey from reactive to reflective; to find balance amidst the chaos. Then, the poor-li’l-me victim mentality along with its self-pitying beliefs start to dissipate, while you stop trying to prove — to yourself before the world — that you matter and are worthy of love and all the rest. Because now you know you are. Time to just BE.   
What essentially matters is how you respond to life, your attitude and perspective. For life is mostly how you take it and partially what you make it. The full work still must be done if one chooses to shed their skin and grow through life. 

The more we understand this dynamic between the different counterparts of our inner being, the more we reconcile the seeming polarity into Oneness, the more we become better equipped to deal with the darkness of others; because we can relate, so we see them for who they truly are, even when they don’t see it themselves. That means we do not judge, categorise, castigate, or vilify — not even our own demons. Choosing not to be led by your emotions does not mean you’re cold or heartless, it means you’re wiser.

It is worth noting that, in essence, the healing journey is fuelled and later embodied by love and self-forgiveness.

 The resulting self-knowledge entails change, growth, evolution, becoming better versions ourselves and, of course, truth and freedom. For love is the way, or so they say.

More about the topic is covered in my previous psychophilosophical exposé, Theory of Mind: Thinking About Thinking and the Benefits of Observing the Observer.

Dance With Your Demons by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

ertain individuals succeed to varying degrees in hiding their flaws and imperfections, thinking them weaknesses. So they become weaknesses. Whether consciously realised or not, those tend to become victims of their own negative thought patterns — their shadow. Others learn how to use their flaws and imperfections, thereby transform the weakness into strength. Having recognised and fully accepted their darkness, these alchemists use it as a motivational force to stand confidently in their own light — owning their truth while finally transcending the seeming duality. Perfectly imperfect. Then Coincidentia Oppositorum, or the Union of Opposites. For it is the same fire that can either melt you or forge you.

The reality is, we never get to fully conquer or even outrun our inner demons by facing them on mere occasions. In fact, it is possible to overcome certain demons yet ignore or postpone dealing with others, rendering the healing process longer. Although changing locations like moving to a different country may help us reset ourselves, hence be able to change certain negative patterns and toxic habits, it does not slay or annihilate the dragon. Simply because it remains an integral part of us, so will never just vanish. Whenever someone thinks they have killed their own, for ever and ever, good for them. Maybe they did. But, it could still very well be an egoic trap, a story we tell ourselves — just another thought illusion. Such sobering nugget of truth was something I only came to learn later in life when wrestling with my old addiction demons.

Demons manifest themselves in unique ways depending on each person; just as each person deals with theirs differently. Some may be able to avoid or ignore, others may silence, escape, distract, numb themselves to the emptiness for a while. There are also those tortured souls who seem to be in a perpetual state of war with their own selves and very neurochemistry, slaves of their shadows, going through life in a “reaction mode” to the division of their fragmented minds. On their way to maturity, people oftentimes alternate between these different psychological coping mechanisms.

Still, wherever we go, there we are. As a concept, inner demons will likely always reside somewhere deep down within us. Demons as well as angels do indeed seem to metaphorically embody the Human Condition, a way for man to understand himself and the true nature of his apparent dualistic psyche. Then again, we do not fight the darkness, we light a candle. So not just coexisting with our own darkness becomes essential, but also getting acquainted and developing a certain relationship with it. I actually hold that the simple ability to occasionally make fun of one’s thoughts is beneficial; for being playful in such a way helps not take ourselves or life too seriously, to let go of the nonsense of the ceaseless chatter, eventually allowing us to befriend ourselves.

As it turned out, this relationship [with the self] is the catalyst to a peculiarly rich sense of serenity, fulfilment, depth, honesty, and some uniquely raw realness, but also of a certain refreshing kind of fearlessness. It equally teaches how to regulate our emotions. And artists are a living proof that darkness can be purposefully channelled into creating something original that hasn’t existed before — a therapeutic experience in and of itself. To reduce the inner noise by creating an outer melody out of it, to which our demons and angels will learn to dance, clap, and sing together. This is how art can invite, inspire, entice the rest of humanity to do the same. Once more, Carl Jung would concur: “A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon.”

What we can do is accept and cherish our authentic selves completely — with the ridiculous, sometimes absurdly dramatic internal monologue and all. Thereby welcome and embrace the dragon rather than battling it or trying to slay it; we tame the beast by putting a proverbial leash on it. Self-actualisation is how we can overcome and master the darkness rather than become its victim the other way round. This is how we transcend the conflicting duality while embracing wholeness.

I used to battle, wrestle, and quarrel with my demons. Now we cuddle, nuzzle, and snuggle.

When we awaken to our true nature our full potential is unlocked, the inner void and the struggle it causes then cease to exist... or is at least diminished to a manageable, witnessable level. Being human, fear still exists, but it cannot drive you crazy because you have learned not to give it the key. Whenever the negative voices visit, you can observe them objectively before letting go. Maybe even laugh at them if you see fit. Integration and liberation at last! 

To learn to ride the dragon is the secret to sincere transformation, reconciliation, and wholeness. Having these integral parts work together instead of against each other, we harness their power and might to our favour — perhaps through art and creativity, showing vulnerability, or for developing empathy towards fellow humans. Verily, befriending our darkness is to own our truth and to embody our higher, wholesome self. It has the extraordinary ability to propel us forward toward a brighter existence. And those who have walked through the fire of their own hell and survived it tend to leave sparks of light wherever they go.

Tamed dragons also make great transportation and are capable of taking us to undreamed of heights.

“Be careful when you cast out your demons that
you don’t throw away the best of yourself.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

*Article adapted from my book

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Monday 24 October 2022

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

After meeting the crafty designer, Yulia, here in Dahab yet before acquiring the piece of clothing shown in the featured photo, I sent her a message, asking what it is called. I have been somewhat fantasising about seeing myself in one for as long as I can remember. And since I’ll be wearing it, one might as well be informed. I wrote, I’m sure it’s not a “Kimono”, but what is it then? She said she calls it “Cape”. Alright. Oh, like Superheroes; but I thought capes went backward. Well I certainly wasn’t going to argue with the actual person who designed and made it.

When sharing the photo on social media a friend commented that he likes the “Shawl” and wanted one. Again here, I’ve always thought a shawl is a smaller piece of cloth or fabric that covers the shoulders, head, and even chest.
In hope to clear out the confusion, my unquenched curiosity led me to dig into that mythical flappy “dress” in order to learn more, especially its correct name. Is it a cape, a cloak, robe, “abaya” (عباية / عباءة), jilbab/jilbãb, tunic, jillaba/djellaba, poncho, or, something totally different? The following are the interesting findings of the investigation.

One type of loose unisex “dress” worn in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia are what they call in Egypt “Galabeya” — otherwise known as Jalabiya/Jalabeya/Jellabiya, Kurta, Thobe/Thawb, Jubbah/Jebba, Kaftan/Caftan among other names depending on where you are in the world.

Saudis, Kuwaitis, Omanis, Qataris, Bahrainis, and Emiratis each have their own traditional style of thobes. 

The same goes for different regions in Africa.

In Egypt, for instance, where there is significant diversity, galabeyas are worn more in the south where it is gets pretty hot. Unlike the thobe, those are more of a working man garb — farmers and construction workers. Bedouins, too, wear galabeyas; those are the nomadic Arab tribes originally from the desert regions who eventually spread across the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. Others may wear them only at home as a sort of pyjamas.

While we can see the Arabic and Turkish influence on Egyptian fashion — see le tarbouche —  even further south in Nuba, where indigenous peoples of the central Nile Valley have been residing for millennia, things seem to become ethnically and distinctively tribal and perhaps more African, one could say, especially for western eyes. Be it clothing, art, or culture as a whole, you do feel their more pure nativity and aboriginality as well as their more direct and perhaps also undiluted ancestral link.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
Nuba, from the answer on Quora

Some of you may have seen me wear an actual galabeya recently, at least in photos. But then this flappy, sleeveless one-piece African-Medicine-Man-looking outfit we are trying to identify herein is not a galabeya. So what is it then other than mere cape? 

Well, in Arabic there is a similar sleeveless unisex overgarment called “Abaya” ( عباية / عباءة). It may be worn over a galabeya or anything else and is usually in plain colours, often black. Some may have limited embroidery, yet are almost never too colourful nor decorated with elaborate squiggles or symbolic designs. True enough, Abaya translates as “cape” in English — like Yulia initially mentioned. But also as “Cloak”, which from English to Arabic is translated as abaya; as well as: Mantle, gown, frock, negligee.

Other names for comparably loose items are Jubbah/Jebba/Jibba and Kaftan/Koftan. In Egypt, the “Jebba and Koftan” are usually worn together and remain the traditional attire of Muslim sheikhs and those at Al-Azhar — with the koftan ( قُفْطان ) worn underneath the jebba (جُبَّة  ) .

For Muslim women, there is also the “Jilbab/Jilbãb” worn as a conservative religious dress code. Oh boy, more words!, said the logo-lexophile. 

Now back to the English language. By mentioning cloak we must go back to cape. Both are sleeveless and made from a single piece of fabric, yet they do not describe the same thing. In fact, the Internet is full of cape vs cloak articles.

Capes are known to be shorter, typically reaching the hips and thighs, while cloak is full/floor-length or calf-length. Due to its bell shape, the word cloak in Middle English actually originates from Old French cloke, dialect variant of cloche ‘bell, cloak’; from medieval Latin clocca ‘bell. Aha, who knew!

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
    Different versions of cloaks and capes as seen on

Beside size, another apparent difference between cape and cloak lies in their purpose. Compared to the latter, the former is seen as more of a fashion article usually worn for aesthetics rather than functionality. That is in real life.

In the realm of fictional fantasy and Superheroes, capes could have legit functions — like Superman, Batman, Thor. Capes have already made it into storytelling even earlier with Zorro (1919) as well as Alexandre Dumas The Three Musketeers (1844). Then again, why many fictional superheroes are created and depicted wearing capes part of their costumes, somewhat stereotypically one might add? This is a more specific query found posed and answered on many websites and forums like Quora again, and Reddit.

One theory is to make them look larger in size while also more majestic, otherworldly, or intimidating. Love me some otherworldliness! Another use, as mentioned, is to provide cover and protection. Apparently the idea was inspired by theatre artists from the 1920s and 30s.
Interestingly, there is an established history in Spanish drama and fiction called “Capa y Espada” or “Cape and Sword”.

Let us not forget, however, that many story villains tend to be depicted wearing capes just as well, like Dracula for instance. The same goes for witches, wizards, vampires... and, of course, Little Red Riding Hood.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
The philosopher in a himation à la Ancient Greece, 2014 (L)
& the artist in perhaps a
tunic or kurta
handmade by Bedouins, 2022 (R)

Cloaks, on the other hand, turned out to be one of the earliest attires in history.
Worn by Ancient Greeks as outer garment over the left shoulder and under the right arm as a mantle or wrap, it was called a Himation”. The Romans then later copied the Greeks [surprise!], creating their own version, the Pallium. Scots and Celts, too, wore cloaks to warm up.

More about the history and origin of cloaks can be found in What’s the Difference between Capes and Cloaks?. As for capes, they are covered in length in Types of Capes.

Whether capes or cloaks,
it seems they are both prevalent in a multitude of folk tales permeating countless ancient cultures and the human psyche and imagination along with it. Indeed, there is something archaically magical and phantasmagorical about them, which for me personally remains captivating.  

Adding to the seemingly endless list of terms, there is also the “Tunic”, which is another unisex article originally worn in the ancient Mediterranean world, yet it also goes back to Ancient Egypt. It is a top shirt reaching either to the hips or knees, like Peter Pan or possibly myself [again] in the above photo. What to say: I cherish my individuality as much as I have a distaste for conformity. Sharing my own photos herein also helps greatly with copyright issues. So there is also that. 

A similar-looking collarless shirt is called “Kurta” in South East Asia. It is often worn underneath the unisex coat-like traditional Indian “Sherwani”.  

Resembling the western tunic, there is the “Smock-frock or smock for short. As a sort of protective outer coat or apron, it was originally worn in rural areas by waggoners and shepherds. Today smocks refer to a work overgarment worn for protection like for painters.

Still, while our novel item of clothing in question is made from a single piece of loose fabric, material wise, it is much thinner that what is usually described as cape or cloak. While there are no actual sleeves, there are two large side openings used as sleeves.

Linguistically, perhaps being English words is what makes it challenging to find the correct and suitable appellation within the existing nomenclature. Until now, however, no word says anything about the mysterious symbols and archaic squiggles printed on the material. More digging is necessary. 

Now as we look into Africa, we start coming closer to the truth.

In West Africa, there is the “Dashiki”, which is a colourful garment that covers the top half of the body. I am sure you came across them before. I remember seeing them as a child in bazaars throughout Egypt. Probably brought into the country from more African nations.  

In East and Central Africa
, dashikis are known as a “Kitenge/Chitenge”, which is piece of fabric similar to a sarong. It has formal and informal versions and varies from simple draped clothing to fully tailored suits.

 Kitenge is close to yet thicker than Kangas and Kikoi.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
Dashiki shirt (L) and a couple of Kitenge designs (R)

Minus the colourful designs, those seem close to the button-less open shirts I have been wearing for the past several years, which were initially designed and custom-made by an artist cousin. Or should should we say “blouses” as another friend once called them. Eventually I started designing more shirts. Different colours and materials, with/without pocket, with/without collar. Just to add some variety since I wear them a whole lot. I also used the same measurements to make a longer garment, which became the grey galabeya — seen in the below photo. Choosing to have it shorter-than-usual in length, it looks like the blue tablier we wore at Kindergarten or even those white attires worn at the Loony Bin. 

You see, at some point when I became who I always was, wearing Polo shirts seemed so... not me, for lack of a more descriptive word. Same goes for clothes with visible labels or marks on them. So I gave the few I had away and had to find something that suits my philosophy, authenticity, eccentricity, peculiarity, and mental states. This step had already followed getting rid of suits and ties almost a decade prior.

Then, with the long hair, beard, shorts, and flip-flops, the beach-living Bohemian artist look seemed to have been almost perfected. By my mid-late 30s I even started wearing pink again after kicking it out of my wardrobe 25 years prior. In case you’re wondering why, because teenage me wanted to “Be a man!” How juvenile. Without colours, or with only a few preferred ones that we stick to like peas in a pod, our choice of clothing can certainly become quite drab and boring. 

While I happen to feel highly comfortable in those custom-made shirts, they became my casual everyday attire. Plus, they are all plain. Hence the occasional fascination with certain unique, unusual, non-mainstream wear with cool designs, patterns, and imprints like the one we are investigating. Though actually, it will be worn on special occasions, such as drum circles or festivals — perhaps as some kind of costume and certainly not everyday. I do love my current style, yet being eclectic in taste means that change also remains needed while comfort is still kept. After all, I hold that when you are comfortable you tend to look good and not the other way round.

I once jovially wrote: Why only Yoda and the Pope among other wizards and spiritual figures get to enjoy life with free dangling cojones? I’m sick of this discrimination and letting the boys loose. Ah. What freedom.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
They had something called Galabeya Party in 1980s and 90s Egypt
where somewhat modern people would wear galabeyas for the event. Ha.

ow, the following is from someone on Quora, answering to the question Why are “Robes” so commonly worn by males in Africa and the Middle East?: [“Robe”, too, could be another suitable word; without belt though]

Arabian heat and African heat, aren’t the same. Even in those countries, humidity is variable so there are different adaptations depending on your proximity to the Coast Line.”

Another answer about Africa in particular: 

“Robes are perceived as a sign of wisdom and all respectable males are expected to wear some kind of clothing covering their legs, therefore we have different varieties of robes for different venues and occupation.”

As we come closer to the one I had just acquired — in appearance, material, signs, designs — , there is the “Bogolan”: Another kind of robe that is “More convenient to do some kind of work like Agriculture, hunting and other outdoor activities, Historically worn by hunters, Farmers, and herdsmen.”

Like dashiki and kitenge before it, Bogolan does not seem to describe the type of clothe or garments, but it is the handmade cotton fabric, or textile, on which the symbols and patterns are then added. So just as there are Bogolan robes, there are Bogolan dresses, skirts, pants, tops, suits.

As shared in an illuminating article on Contemporary African Art (dotcom):

Etymologically, the origin roots of Bogolanfini are Bambara, the language spoken by the Bamana people of Mali and it is derived from three words: ‘logo’ meaning mud/earth, ‘lan’ meaning by means of, and ‘fini’ meaning cloth.”


From The Bogolan Mudcloth, another article on The Ethnic Home in which photos of how mudcloth have been and still are traditionally made; the spinning, weaving, and sewing may take the men and women artists involved up to two months. A truly extraordinary effort.

The Malian Bogolan, today, is probably the most distinctive African textile. To non-African eyes, all of its aspects embody the African “flavour”: Its colours embrace the entire ochre palette of the African earth; its patterns call to mind ancestral and mysterious tribal geometries; its textured cotton, so thick and sturdy, and its evident manual seams tell the story of an antique universe of skilful hands.

For the Malians, it’s a national treasure and an essential element of their cultural identity. They say that Bogolan is made of the earth, the river, the forests, and the sun of Mali. It’s literally true — it’s not a way of saying — but Bogolan is even more: as is often the case in predominantly oral cultures, a cloth is never a simple cloth.

The present bogolan textile often called “the African mudcloth”, has its roots in the traditional bogolanfini, a handspun and handwoven cotton cloth, hand-dyed following a complex process involving the use of plant extracts, fermented mud from the Niger River, a lot of tropical sun and water.

While it is certainly an ancient tradition, it is thought impossible to say how old it could be; for its origins remain unknown. Despite some scholars (as Luke-Boone, 2001) claiming it can be traced back to the 12th century AD, this is still an unverifiable hypothesis due to the perishable and fragile nature of the fabric.”


Literally produced from the very essential elements of Mother Nature and consequently also Life. How fascinating.
Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
It is like deciphering the story added to the item

What is equally interesting are the symbols and patterns embroidered on the actual garment of the ‘mudcloth’ Bogolan. Some symbolise Bravery/Fearlessness, Wealth and Luxury; others like the two arrowheads connected by a straight line — found on mine — represent the “House of Calabash Flowers”. Larger patterns may also have their meanings, such as “a drum calling warriors into battle”.

Apparently each outfit tells its own story. Depending on the symbols and patterns used, their specific order and arrangement can reveal a plethora of secretive information. What an inspiration for a storytelling djembefola. It was actually the artistic symbolism that had first caught my attention at the community Market here in Dahab; they truly “spoke to me” — somewhat subconsciously while drawing me towards it. This is when I met Yulia — almost in a trance. The fact that they are unisex was another interest. Starting by inquiring, eventually, I ended up acquiring.

You can find her cool native clothing on Aervanshop on Instagram.

As we carry on digging throughout the region and get more specific, here are other names for traditional African wear as seen in Traditional African Clothing That Identifies African Tribes At A Glance:

1. Kente: Ashanti and Ewe people of Ghana

2. Iro ati Buba: Iro and Buba (popularly called Iro ati Buba) are native to Yoruba women of Nigeria. The original version of the dress features five pieces.

3. Boubou: Senegalese unisex. 

4. Kanzu: Called “Thobe/Thawb” in Arabic and “Tunic” in English, those “jalabeyas” are white or cream worn by men in the Africa Great Lakes region — especially popular in Uganda while also including Burundians, Congolese, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Malawians, Rwandans, Tanzanians, and Ugandans.

5. Habesha Kemis: Belonging to the Habesha women of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Habesha Kemis is usually a robe that stretches from the neck to the ankles. It does sound like a woman’s full name. 

6. Jillaba or Djellaba: is a long, loose-fitting unisex robe usually full-sleeved and worn in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Traditionally, the main material for designing djellabas is wool. However, these days lightweight cotton ones have become available. Many also have hoodies, which makes you look like a monk, and which had captivated me as a kid when I saw them depicted in Tintin's book Le Crabe aux Pinces d'Or (The Crab with the Golden Claws), which took place in Morocco.

One cannot help see the similarity between the words Jillaba, Jilbab, and Jalabeya/J

Speaking of, taken from
Words I Made Up — The Thirteenth, there is also Jill-Babs: A feminine given name common between traditional Arab immigrants who adhere to a certain religious dress code. Uhu.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
Even Dupond et Dupont (Thomson & Thompson)! from Tintin
et Le Crabe aux Pinces d
One day I shall get a blue hooded one... preferably from Morocco

Beside Africa and Arabia, variants of loose ethnic clothings were equally prevalent in North Asia, Eastern Europe, and Persia — where their long-sleeved silk or cotton robes are called Khalat/Kehlat/Khilat.

Central Asia and Eastern Europe also had their own versions. In Romanian, for instance the word is Halat

It is held that the Russian kaftan was likely influenced by Persian and/or Turkic people in Old Russia. A common garment since as far back as the 13th Century, the word “kaftan” was actually adopted from the Tatar language, which in turn was borrowed from Persia. The traditional Russian version of the kaftan look quite similar to ones worn by Ottoman sultans. It could be made of wool, cashmere, silk, or cotton.

In Turkey, they are known as Chapan — see photo below.

Parallelly, Jewish culture adapted a silky robe, bekishe, or frock coat, kapoteh, from the garb of Polish nobility.

South East Asians, too, were inspired to wear related garments after dealing with visiting Arab traders.

Much more recently in 20th Century Europe and America, some designers like Christian Dior and Balenciaga added loose fitting robes to their collections. For westerners, such wear was considered quite unique and exotic. 

In the 1960s and 70s hippie fashions were inspired by ethnic styles, especially through Americans who would return from journeying the “Hippie Trail”. Slowly but surely, the idea of wearing traditional clothings belonging to other cultures and regions became appropriated by designers. It was also a time when Kaftan-like dashikis became common between African Americans.

Today, culture appropriation is quite the controversial topic in the U.S. It is described as: When members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way.

The trouble, I think, is largely a by-product of the nature of the fabric of the current American society. From one side, Native Americans had their lands stolen, and from the other, Africans were enslaved and brought into ships. So maybe such minorities are not too keen to see white folks, who represent the majority, trying to mimic, embody, or steal [again] their own ethnic identities. For one, it is taken as disrespect.

As such, one wonders that perhaps if their shared history was more peaceful, the society could have been less segregated while people could have worn whatever they wish; because despite their different past and history, everyone will truly be part of one nation, in which there is not much enmity between the different groups and culture identities.

Taking myself as an example, my paternal family is originally from Turkey before great great grandfather arrived to Egypt as a young boy with his uncle Muhammad Ali Pasha. On my maternal grandmother side, they came to Egypt from Arabia, which followed their even more native, Kazakhstan in Central Asia. As such, I can say I am Egyptian, African, Turkish, even Arab and Asian. Not that I particularly enjoy flags or borders or labels, because they tend to divide us; I also see myself as a citizen of the world. Yet, these remain one’s roots. So choosing to wear items that are from outside the norm of my westernised upbringing — French school and American university — seems totally fine. These are somehow the clothes of my ancestors, which I cherish and wear with a certain reverence and respect rather than at a Halloween party. It could be that I am subconsciously attempting to connect with my primal foundation... à la Bohémien.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
Great great great grandfather, or the father of the grandfather of my grandfather, “El Sayed” Mohamed Cherif Pasha “El Kebir” (circa 1760s — 1865) in a Turkish chapin. He was ( والي الشام ) or Governor of Syria and the land of Arabestan/Arabistan,
which was part of the Ottoman Empire.

While culture appropriation is a much more recent subject, in early America a related clothing item is found: the famous Poncho. Its utilisation, however, remain different, mainly due to the different weather, it still looks slightly close to our Bogolan garment here. The below description has been adapted from Wikipedia:

Spanish for blanket, woollen fabric, a poncho is an outer garment designed to keep the body warm. A rain poncho is made from a watertight material designed to keep the body dry from the rain. Ponchos have been used by the Native American peoples of the Andes, Valley of Mexico and Patagonia since pre-Hispanic times, from places now under the territory of Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina and are now considered classic American article of clothing.

For South American and Mexican cultures, ponchos are a distinguished archetypal costume.

Beside the traditional usage, apparently more recently in history there were “military ponchos”. Starting in 1850, those early models were used in the Civil War then later in World War II. Around then, the Germans Army likewise issued ponchos to their soldiers which could be combined to form tents. True story! Being portable, they are used as well in times of peace as sleeping mats, or again, tents during hiking or camping.

Unique Ethnic Clothings From Around the World by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
Araucanos and Huasos in Chile, 19th century, Wikipedia

With all such compelling information and new terms, let us recap the findings of the comparative research before we go. Starting with what the garment at issue could have been but turned out not to be, and ending with what seems like it actually is.

We said it is not a kimono nor shawl. Neither is it a galabeya/thobe/kaftan, nor abaya/jilbab/jubbah, since those have sleeves. What about cape and cloak? Based on the description of both, the first is supposed to be somewhat short rather than full length, while the latter sounds quite western
again probably due to language. It is certainly not a tunic, because that is basically a long shirt/blouse with sleeves.

When we then explore the African continent, the identification process then begins to look more promising.
First in West Africa where there is the mighty colourful dashiki; then in East and Central Africa where we find the kitenge/chitenge. Both, however, seem to describe the vibrant prints on the textile or material rather than the actual garment. So it is said: Dashiki shirt, dashiki robe, kitenge dress, kitenge skirt and so on. When we finally come across the Malian Bogolan mudcloth, on which the symbols we were investigating are imprinted, we again find that the word Bogolan describes the actual fabric rather than the type of clothing. For there are likewise Bogolan dresses, skirts, pants, tops, suits.

As we have seen, since the kind of loose clothing is found pretty much everywhere around the globe, different appellations for what may seem like similar garments differ depending on one
s location and language. It appears that this kind of ancestral clothing has been around throughout a colourful variety of different cultures going back to aeons ago. While the names and styles may differ, the very idea or concept of a loose garment worn by men and women seems to be everywhere. Perhaps it is its sheer simplicity and comfort were the main catalyst behind how it became so widespread and universal. Another reason why some of us have always felt a certain mysterious connection drawn to it. 

That is in addition to the enchanting fact that the Bogolan ‘mudcloth’ in particular is made of and from the Earth. I highly doubt that mine had gone through the traditional few-week procedure. But I am certainly ecstatic to have it while informed about its compelling history and origin.   

Et voilà. And now we know.

With all this eclectic variety of names originating from a variety of times and places, starting now I shall call it a Bogolan Robe.  

Now I am utterly excited for the next Full Lunacy Drum Circle here in Dahab or any coming music festival when the Bogolan robe will be wearing me… making it look fabulous. I hope you enjoyed reading this research exposé as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it. 


Why do superheroes wear capes?, Quora

Why do classic superheroes wear capes?, Reddit

Why are “Robes” so commonly worn by males in Africa and the Middle East?, Quora

What’s the Difference between Capes and Cloaks?, Raven Fox Capes & Cloaks

Types of Capes, Treasurie  

Bogolan Mudcloth, Contemporary African Art

The Bogolan Muccloth, The Ethnic Home

11 Traditional African Clothing That Identifies African Tribes At A Glance, African Vibes

Poncho, Wkipedia



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