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5 Aug, 2010 03:18

Westernized media in Jordan breaking old taboos

Jordan, the country in the Middle East, is becoming one of the most westernized of the Arab nations.The younger generation easily assimilates to the new way of life in the country of culturally diverse societies.

Some are even trying to break the taboos of the predominantly Muslim world.

A men’s magazine that shows off brawn and muscle and leaves little to the imagination with a typical for it cover wouldn't raise eyebrows in Europe.

But in the Middle East, in a country like Jordan, where 95% of the population is Muslim, it can go on sale only in the capital city. Editor Sara Assad says her aim is to shock ­ and that she does – by filling in a gap in the market touching on issues that are pretty much taboo in the Arab world ­ like talking about relationships and sex.

“It definitely goes against the grind,” Assad told RT. “You would not find it in rural areas, pretty much outside of the capital. A lot of our readers, they have a different way of thinking. A lot of them have studied abroad, they’ve lived abroad, they work abroad and they take these little mindsets with them and apply it to the way of life.”

Amman is one of the most westernized cities in the Middle East and is often called the "new Beirut". Among the ever-increasing number of skyscrapers are American well-known brands and chains.

So it comes as no surprise that more and more youngsters are choosing a British accent to tune into each day.

Martin Bee hosts one of the top three English radio stations in the country.

And in the seven years he’s worked in the region he’s seen English radio grow almost three-fold.

“It’s about wanting to consume and it’s about westernizm,” Bee said. “I mean if you look at the fast food restaurants for example, you’ve got restaurants on your doorstep, burger chains and pizza restaurants. People want it, it’s a wanting, and essentially when there is a demand, you give it.”

Salwa Qaddoura, content executive at radio Energy 97,7 FM is typical of the new generation that finds it easy to move between cultures.

She's lived in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and speaks fluent English and Arabic.

She grew up on American culture and says she’d choose Western music and movies over traditional Arabic ones, any day.

“A lot of us have come from culturally diverse socities like either your mom or your dad might be foreign,” she explained. “This is a new trend in Jordan. It’s fine, we’re accepting the fact that you not limited to marrying an Arab or a Jordanian and a lot of us go to study abroad and abroad you get to meet so many different cultures and so many different people.”

But Shauna Zajac, editor of Viva and Trend design magazines, feels some of the influences also come from the government. She's the first to admit that the fashion that glosses the pages of her magazines, no-one would ever wear on the streets.

“It’s almost like there’s a contradiction in society,” she told RT. “You have that sector of society that is holding on to traditional values and traditional ideas and then you have typically the more modern part of the city that is kind of wanting to develop and westernize. I would say that it’s a lot of influence from the upper levels kind of permeating down. I mean obviously just from the government levels. They get a lot of support and aid from the US and therefore the influence is kind of there.”

And it’s an influence that’s hard to miss ­ especially when it’s backed up by Western advertising and money.

Amanese joke that on the streets Arabesie is spoken – a mixture of Arabic and English. For teenagers it’s a way to impress the opposite sex and it’s true that speaking English will probably get you a better job. After all, the king’s mother is English.