Muhajababes (Paperback)

by Allegra Stratton

Format: Paperback 256 pages

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Two thirds of the population in the Middle East are under 25 years old and, though more of them than ever have university degrees, there aren't enough jobs to go round. They're having a collective quarter-life crisis. In the months before turning 25 herself, Allegra Stratton set out to meet them, all of them. She visits Beirut, Amman, Cairo, Dubai, Kuwait City and Damascus - moving with the Middle Eastern ripple of change: Iraq's first post-Saddam elections, Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, Mubarak's decision to hold multi-candidate elections and Kuwait giving women the vote. Instead of youth culture as we know it she discovers a massive video industry of airbrushed, heavily produced, scantily clad singers holds the affections of young Arabs. And there seems to be a contradiction. Many of the fans of these semi-naked popstrels are also very devout. 'Muhajabah' means one who veils. These, then, are the Muhajababes. Allegra gets locked into a painter's studios and sits at the back of Pop Idol auditions; she saves a businesswoman from a fatal spelling mistake and meets the region's most famous single mother. All of them - members of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of sports clubs alike - talk of the same Islamic revival. But though this time it's dressed up as trendy Islam, is it still religious conservativism? When Allegra returns, she discovers the answer to this question may lie closer to home than she thought.

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