Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cool Arabia

I had the chance to spend a considerable amount of time watching Arabic satellite channels over the past few weeks and one thing struck me almost immediately - how very Saudi a lot of it is. This is probably not a surprise, but it would be interesting to see how and when (and by whom) the decision was made to start a concerted and massive PR campaign for the Saud family's private kingdom (formerly the Hejaz). In the many adverts, you almost always see a smiling woman in a fresh and attractively wrapped hejab promoting the latest product. Slick adverts show you a situation that could be in any metropolitan city in the world, but there is always the innocuous appearance of a man in a galabiyah or a woman in a hejab placed discreetly and professionally. Saudi music is also increasingly popular thanks to the many degenerate music channels such as Rotana and Melody that now grace our airwaves. The new Saudi Arabia is hip, trendy and forward looking. Ramadan and Eid are commercialised with enticing and orientalised adverts whilst Arab countries now vie for tourist traffic through specially designed adverts catered for the Gulf [Saudi] family - for an example just look at the recent adverts for Egypt which, apart from being demeaning for the country, are aimed exclusively for these Gulf tourists. LBC has, for some time now, also been quite happy to take part in this phenomenon and routinely shows programmes where Wahhabi sheikhs handle queries from the many faithful. It goes without saying that the "It's cool to be Saudi" ads are now standard on the channel but something like this would have been impossible to imagine in the late eighties. I guess this is hardly surprising considering the countries political climate and the neo-liberal vision that Hariri had for it before his untimely demise. "Cool Arabia" has been born, where it is funky and hip to be from "The Kingdom" or KSA as some like to call it.


On a slightly different subject, does anybody know what the situation is with Prince Walid bin Sultan regarding Syria? I hear he has now pulled most of his investments out of the country apart from the Four Seasons hotel. I've also heard - unreliably - that Prince Bandar's son is being held incommunicado for the Mughniyeh killing in Syria.

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