Around my senior year in college, I remember, as I was discussing my post-graduation plans with my father, I mentioned that I was getting more and more serious about moving back to the Middle East after graduation. He balked at the idea, though (at least ostensibly) not for the obvious reasons. Rather than citing more common concerns of safety and the like, he instead pointed to my lack of facial hair.
“You’ll never be able to pull it off,” he said, half-joking (but still, half-serious). “You’ll never be able to get any respect in that part of the world without a mustache.”
While its faded from ubiquity it once enjoyed among western elites, the mustache largely retains the prominence its long enjoyed in the Arab World. Brandished by men ranging from Gulf royals and Baathist autocrats to civil servants and cab drivers, the mustache is hard to avoid in the region.
Felt compelled to get a photo after completing an interview in an adjacent room. A remarkably jarring color scheme.
The front page of Al-Thawra, Yemen’s top state-run newspaper on Jan 25th, (coincidentally) the one year anniversary of the start of protests against Mubarak. Reads “Basindowa visits Change Square,” photo shows Mohamed Salem Basindowa, longtime opposition politician and Prime Minister since late last year and Yemeni Nobel Laureate/activist Tawakkol Karman. There have been a lot of shake-ups in state media since the signing of the GCC Deal, but it was still rather jarring to see such a headline on a what was once a staunchly pro-Saleh newspaper.
An odd footnote in this year of upheaval has been the May 2011 death of American Jazz musician/poet Gil Scott Heron, who authored “The Revolution will not be Televised,” arguably the most quoted poem ever set to bongo drums.
Unsure how the under-appreciated proto-rapper would have reacted to the ubiquity of his words throughout the various fronts of the so-called Arab Spring, but I imagine he’d be sort of cool with it.