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Pop Culture in the Arabian Peninsula: Societal Expressions, Commercial Issues and State Cooptations

Girls’ Fashion and Khaleeji Pop Culture: The cultural fortunes of the gambūʿa, from hairdo to Internet meme

La mode des filles et la pop culture golfique: Les tribulations culturelles de la gambūʿa, de coiffure à mème internet
Laure Assaf

Résumés

À la fin des années 2000, la gambūʿa fait son apparition dans les villes du Golfe arabe. Cette coiffure, adoptée par les jeunes femmes et caractérisée par une bosse s’élevant au sommet de la tête, donne l'impression de cheveux longs et volumineux sous le voile. Sa hauteur extravagante et son association avec le consumérisme font rapidement de la gambūʿa un objet de condamnations morales. Tandis que sa popularité commence à décliner dans l’espace public, la coiffure gagne en visibilité sur les réseaux sociaux, se transformant ainsi en mème. À partir d’entretiens menés avec de jeunes femmes émiriennes et d’une analyse des productions culturelles en ligne dédiées à la gambūʿa, cet article explore la manière dont cet objet controversé cristallise des tensions propres aux sociétés contemporaines du Golfe – notamment au sein des discours et représentations portant sur la moralité, l’identité nationale et la modernité. Ces débats prennent aussi une dimension genrée : les condamnations visent spécifiquement la catégorie des « filles » (al-banāt). À mesure que la gambūʿa se change en mème, cependant, les significations attribuées à la coiffure se transforment : en devenant un objet d'humour et de ridicule, elle permet ainsi aux jeunes femmes de prendre part aux productions culturelles concernant cette coiffure.

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  • 1 From khalīj, Gulf. I use the transliterated form Khaleeji as an adjective, as it is the term used l (...)

1In the late 2000s, a new hairstyle started appearing in the public spaces of Gulf cities. It was characterized by a large hump expanding in length and height above the head, giving the impression of long and voluminous hair under the shēla – the light veil characteristic of women’s national dress in Gulf countries. This style was especially popular among young women, and became known in Khaleeji dialects1 as gambūʿa (from the Standard Arabic qubba‘a, hat) or ḥijāb bū nafkha, the ḥijāb with a puff. The puff effect was achieved through a large flowery clip (shabbāṣa) placed under the hair or added to a bun (Fig. 1), though there were many jokes and speculations about what sorts of objects young women might use to expand the height of their gambūʿa. They sometimes wore it alongside blow-dried, fluffed-out bangs falling over the forehead, with the shēla pulled to the back of the skull. Soon, the gambūʿa was sported by young Muslim women around the world, but its origin remained associated with the Gulf region.

  • 2 The term ‘Arabīzī comes from the contraction of the Arabic words for “Arabic” and “English.” Widely (...)

2By 2010, the popularity of this style had already started declining in favor of other trends. At the same time, the hairdo had gained visibility in the press and especially online, where it became both an object of condemnation and the butt of many humoristic comments and cartoons posted on the most popular online spaces of the time: blogs, forums, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. There, the name of the hairdo was often spelled gamboo3a – using ‘Arabīzī, the Arabic chat alphabet.2

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Author unknown. Image that circulated on online forums, showing the shabbāṣa, the flower-shaped hair clip, and its voluminous effect under the veil. The text is a ḥadīth used to condemn the hairdo; see below.

  • 3 Herzfeld, 1997.

3The present article tells the story of how the gambūʿa went from a hairdo to an Internet meme, and of the semiotic shifts that happened in the process. By tracing the diversity of discourses around the gambūʿa and reflecting on the ways they construct the social category of “girls” (al-banāt or al-fatayāt), I show how the participatory nature of social media transformed the meanings attributed to the hairdo. First an object of moral panic, which crystallized tensions around modernity and national identity in contemporary Gulf societies through the vilification of girls’ fashion, I argue that the gambūʿa soon became an object of laughter, which participated in the construction of a regional popular culture – one that elicited a form of “cultural intimacy”3 at the scale of the Gulf region.

  • 4 I conducted semi-guided interviews on a variety of topics with around 50 students in two all-female (...)
  • 5 Media articles and films are cited in the bibliography. The social media content analyzed includes (...)

4I rely partly on fieldwork conducted with young Emirati women in Abu Dhabi between 2010 and 2014.4 While the gambūʿa was not the main focus of our conversations, the discussions we had shed light on their relationship to fashion and clothing styles. They often mentioned how they felt their dress choices were perceived and judged by others, and the various norms they had to negotiate when choosing an outfit. I also include the analysis of media articles, films and video clips, cartoons, and social media posts addressing this phenomenon. This corpus, collected both at the time and retroactively in more recent years (in 2016 and 2021 especially), is far from exhaustive: the more fleeting Internet content has disappeared since, and authorship is hard to trace.5

  • 6 Gunter, Elareshi, Al-Jaber, 2016: 7.
  • 7 Jenkins, 2006.
  • 8 Twitter was created in 2006 and became available in the Arabic language in 2012. Gulf countries, in (...)

5In many ways, the online lives of the gambūʿa reflect a turning point in the expansion of Internet use. The phenomenon is first representative of the high rates of Internet penetration in the Gulf region: by the mid-2000s, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait had “achieved near universal access,” while Saudi Arabia and Oman reached “widespread penetration.”6 More importantly, it coincided with the rise of social media platforms and the ensuing media “convergence,”7 i.e., the dissemination of content across multiple platforms and consumers’ ability to navigate across them. The first discussions around the hairdo indeed took place on online forums and blogs around 2008-2009 – at the time, important spaces of expression and debate for the civil societies of Gulf countries before these platforms were deserted or shut down as an effect of state surveillance. But the height of the gambūʿa’s online presence happened concomitantly with the rise of Twitter, around 2010-2012.8 As the gambūʿa made its way into popular culture, it was also transported to cinema and TV screens; theater and stand-up comedy shows; scholarly articles; and newer social media platforms like Instagram.

6Because my fieldwork at the time was located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the ethnographic data I use focuses on this country, while online and media data spans the Gulf region. Like most trends today, the gambūʿa (and the discourses about it) circulated far beyond the Gulf: it was addressed in the Egyptian and Jordanian press; in US media and on English-language blogs tracking Muslim fashion; or by British imams virulently condemning it on YouTube. All these publications consistently associated the hairdo with the Gulf. A Wall Street Journal video reporting on the phenomenon links it to “the chic malls of Dubai,”9 and when the Egyptian series ‘Azmī wa-Ashgān portrays a Khaleejiyya in 2018, the comedic effect stems from the tall gambūʿa uneasily sitting on top of actress Amy Samir Ghanem’s head as she exits her car, a Dior bag in hand.10 Although the hairdo was worn throughout the region, then, many representations associated it with the city of Dubai and its consumerist landscape, which often embodies the archetype of the Gulf city in contemporary urban imaginaries.11

  • 12 See respectively: Göle, 2003; Ahmed, 2021: 144-168; Adelkhah, 1991; Sadeghi, 2010.

7Far from being a frivolous or anecdotal topic, the gambūʿa thus has its place within the long history of debates about women’s hair and dress codes in Muslim societies. Just like public discussions around veiling or unveiling that took place in Turkey, Egypt, or Iran throughout the 20th century,12 discourses about the gambūʿa mobilize idioms of religion, tradition, and modernity to articulate specific conceptions of authenticity and national or regional identity. They also question the place of the Gulf region in the global world, particularly in relation to Western cultural tropes perceived as hegemonic.

8This article first explores how social condemnations of the hairdo borrowed from a variety of norms – mobilizing at once a religious, gendered, and national discourse – to construct “girls” as a threat to moral and social order. As the gambūʿa became an object of online humor, this discourse shifted. While jokes poking fun at the hairdo used ridicule as a means of social control, its inclusion into cartoons and memes concomitantly attenuated the seriousness of the condemnations and, ultimately, allowed young women to participate in the production of online humor about it. Finally, I show how the gambūʿa took on a metonymic dimension: while debates around the hairdo can be read as a transposition of many of the cultural anxieties faced by Gulf societies, its diffusion as a meme contributed to the crystallization of a regional imaginary.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Author and date unknown; attributed to the mosque ‘Alī bin Abī Ṭālib in Medina (Saudi Arabia).

Heads like camel humps: Condemning the gambūʿa

9If the exact origin of the gambūʿa is hard to trace, the discourses condemning it have – at least on the surface – a unique and prestigious source: a ḥadīth found in the collection of the Prophet’s sayings established by Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj (d. 875), the famed Saḥīḥ Muslim. Reproduced on many online images denouncing the hairdo, the ḥadīth is used to legitimize the normative discourses these images articulate, as well as the dress codes they promote. It also constructs Khaleeji girls as a social category in need of religious and moral guidance.

10Figure 2, a composite picture attributed to the mosque ‘Alī bin Abī Ṭālib in Medina which was shared widely across online forums in the region, begins with the text of the ḥadīth:

  • 13 Saḥīḥ Muslim, Book 53, ḥadīth 63; emphasis is on the picture. The Saḥīḥ Muslim is part of the two m (...)

The Prophet said: “There are two categories among the denizens of Hell whom I have not encountered. The first are people who carry whips like the tail of an ox and flog people with them. The second are women, clothed yet naked (kāsiyāt ʿāriyāt), drawn to licentiousness and enticing others to it, their heads like the swaying humps of camels (ru’ūsu-hunna ka-asnimat al-bukht al-māʾila). They will neither enter Paradise nor even smell its fragrance, though its fragrance can be smelled from such and such distance.”13

  • 14 Sadeghi, 2010.

11The rest of the image offers an exegesis of the ḥadīth. The expression “clothed yet naked” is interpreted as depicting women who wear “modest but tight clothing, which does not dissimulate feminine charms; like the thin shēla that is widespread today.” The gambūʿa is thus portrayed as a form of “misveiling,”14 i.e., a diversion of the Islamic veil: while on the surface adopting a modest dress code, it would in fact reveal what it is supposed to conceal.

  • 15 In his study on the UAE national dress, Sulayman Khalaf cites a pamphlet distributed at Zayed Unive (...)

12The image goes on to explain that the ḥadīth is a warning against “tying one’s hair and wearing a tight shēla so that the head looks like a camel hump from behind.” The bottom image visually reinforces the overlap between the hairdo and the animal, and a speech bubble notes that “the Prophet’s words brilliantly came true in our times” (taḥaqqaqa al-ḥadīth al-nabawī). Indeed, while the same ḥadīth had already been mobilized in moral campaigns long before the emergence of the gambūʿa,15 the latter somehow acted as a verification of it. On online forums as well as in official publications by religious and moral authorities, the “hump” characterizing the hairdo was considered a direct instantiation of the practices condemned by the ḥadīth. The mention of camels further consolidated the association between the hairdo and the Gulf region, thus giving way to a symbolic convergence (in English it is often called the “camel hump hijab”). The most virulent discourses against the gambūʿa therefore classified it under the category of ḥarām (prohibited by Islamic law), while others simply labeled it socially inappropriate (ʿayb).

  • 16 The bukht is a hybrid camel characterized by its two humps (sanāmayn); it is reputed for its beauty (...)

13In addition, discourses of condemnation relying on the ḥadīth generally adopted a didactic tone. Figures 2 and 4, for example, incorporate an explanation of the term bukht, noting that it is a type of camel.16 This tone often became patronizing towards “girls,” portraying the popularity of the hairdo as a sign of their ignorance of religious principles, and girls as a population in need of being taught the right practice. In Figure 2, the picture to the left describes the “true licit headwear,” thus prescribing the rightful practices. Figure 3, which appeared a few years later, works quite literally as an explanatory sketch, using an Islamic vocabulary to point out immoral adornments and clothing styles. The online uses of this image further highlight its normative dimension. It was shared to Twitter by mainly Saudi users: among them, a man who framed it as “#Advice to the girls” (#naṣīḥa li-l-banāt; 2014), adding: “you need to beware of these things, girls,” while a young woman posted it under the hashtag “we are girls committed to the ḥijāb” (#niḥna fatayāt mutamassikāt bi-l-ḥijāb; 2015) – thus distinguishing herself from this practice.

  • 17 This notion was first coined by Cohen, 2002 [1972].
  • 18 Many of the forums I consulted are indeed identified by country – even though users often navigated (...)
  • 19 Al Yūsufī, 05/05/2010 mentions campaigns against the hairdo led by religious groups – including pro (...)
  • 20 Salamandra, 2012.

14The online circulation of the ḥadīth and the images associated with it therefore functioned as a “moral panic”:17 they sought to elicit public concern around a practice judged deviant, while also targeting girls to try and stop it. These campaigns took their most concrete form on online forums: around 2008-2009, forums across the Gulf (in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, or the UAE)18 featured discussion boards entitled “National campaign against the puffy hijab” (al-ḥamla al-waṭaniyya ḍidd ḥijāb bū nafkha – see Fig. 4), illustrating how these representations circulated around the region. Some of these campaigns were also waged offline, with groups attempting to prohibit the gambūʿa in universities and educational institutions.19 As Christa Salamandra shows, women and their cultural practices have historically been “the crux of concern” of moral panics in the Arab world.20 Online campaigns against the gambūʿa indeed set the general public (subsumed under the nation or the Umma) against a deviant “girls’ fashion” (mūḍat al-fatayāt).

Fig. 3.

Fig. 3.
  • 21 See Al-Qasimi, 2010 for a discussion of these terms (and their use by religious authorities) in rel (...)

Author unknown. The ḥadīth is printed on top of the drawing, and some of its terms are used to label clothing practices judged morally wrong: “clothed yet naked” points to the high-heeled shoes and the dress fitted to the chest and bottom; “their heads like the humps of camels” to the hairdo and bangs; the make-up is depicted as belonging to the pre-Islamic period of ignorance (tabarruj al-jāhiliyya al-ʾūlā); and the cleavage and red nails are qualified of “adornment” (al-zīna).21

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

“Campaign against the ḥijāb bū nafkha’. Image published by the online forum “Qatar shares network” (date unknown). Before reiterating the ḥadīth, the text explains that the puffy ḥijāb “became a trend among teenage girls (al-murāhiqāt) and girls in general (al-fatayāt).”

Fashion, gender roles, and national identity

15While the ḥadīth brings legitimacy to normative discourses about the gambūʿa, the latter often convoke representations and norms that go far beyond religious idioms. In this section, I focus on the UAE to contend that the gambūʿa came to crystallize many of the tensions at play in contemporary Emirati society. These tensions were concentrated around the hairdo’s association with the national dress: because this dress signals both national and gender identity, the gambūʿa was perceived as a threat to both, in a context of heightened anxieties around these issues.

  • 22 Anonymous, 2011; my translation.

16Indeed, the moral panic around the gambūʿa did not happen in a vacuum, but was rather inscribed within a long series of attempts to police the clothing styles of young women, especially when they included elements considered as “foreign.” An anonymous opinion column, published in the daily UAE newspaper Al-Ittiḥād in 2011,22 denounces the gambūʿa alongside other modifications of the national dress. Some of these involve the use of “foreign accessories,” like metal chains or skulls, added to the ʿabāya. Others are described as a perversion of national symbols: a recent trend consisting of sewing dirham coins onto the ʿabāya had just been prohibited in Dubai at the time of the column’s publication.

  • 23 Khalaf, 2005.
  • 24 Akinci, 2020; AlMutawa, 2016. It should be noted that differences in the fabric of the national dre (...)
  • 25 Khalaf, 2005: 256-261.

17Scholars have demonstrated that, in the UAE like in other Gulf countries, the national dress is a recent construct, associated with the nation-building project that followed the union of the seven emirates in 1971.23 In this context, the white kandūra (tunic) and the ghutra (headwear) for men, and the ʿabāya and shēla for women, serve both as instruments of homogenization and of distinction. Indeed, the standardized national dress creates – at least on the surface – a homogeneous national community, masking the ethnic diversity which had previously been visible through clothing styles.24 At the scale of the Gulf region, small differences in styles and patterns mark national boundaries. The national dress also distinguishes Emirati citizens from the growing numbers of foreigners, who represent today around 88% of the UAE’s inhabitants. Sulayman Khalaf shows how the national dress became an object of intense concern in the UAE as early as the 1990s. He argues that the essentialization of the national dress as heritage, and the focus on its preservation, expressed the broader anxieties of many Emiratis about their rapidly changing ways of life and becoming a minority of the population.25

  • 26 Thiollet, 2022.
  • 27 Ibid.:18-22.
  • 28 Al Madani, Abdulrahman (dir.). 2012. The Gamboo3a Revolution (āhirat al-Gambūʿa). Dubai: Dubai Men (...)

18This analysis is consistent with many of the critical discourses held twenty years later about the gambūʿa, which focus on the foreignness of the hairdo and on its inauthenticity. Both the hairdo and the moral panic around it emerged in the wake of the oil boom of the 2000s, which brought about a consumption boom as well as a “second migration boom”:26 in the first decade of the 21st century, the growth of migration flows markedly accelerated in the Gulf, especially to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.27 The Al-Ittiḥād column cited above presents Emirati girls’ consumerism as a consequence of an unidentified foreign influence: “girls like to wear everything innovative, to the point that nothing is authentic anymore among fashion accessories. One can sell anything foreign, and find a girl to buy it.” In an interview for a short film entitled The Gamboo3a Revolution, Widad Lutah, a marriage counselor at the Dubai Courts who presents herself both as a religious scholar and as a pioneer of family reform in the Arab world, echoes this vocabulary.28 She asserts that the hairdo is “not a part of our religion (dīn), nor our manners (ʾadab), nor our traditions (taqālīd).” Rather, wearing it would be a “blind imitation” (taqlīd aʿmā) – implicitly, an imitation of Western fashion trends.

  • 29 Al-Qasimi, 2010.

19Though the gambūʿa is inherently tied to the shēla (and, as we’ve seen, widely considered a typically Khaleeji hairdo), many media discourses therefore depict it as a result of foreign influence on clothing styles. Its “fashionization” of the national dress thus becomes abject. This echoes other national contexts: Noor Al-Qasimi shows how the redefinition of the “judicial ʿabāya” (al-ʿabāya al-shar‘iyya) in Saudi Arabia took place in reaction to the emergence of the “ʿabāya-as-fashion,” and to fashion designers’ disruptive interventions on the national dress.29

20Closely intertwined with the discourse on national identity, condemnations of the gambūʿa also articulate anxieties around the transformation of gender roles in the UAE. These anxieties take the shape of concerns over girls’ clothing styles, which they portray as excessive, competitive, and seeking to seduce.

  • 30 My deepest thanks go to Alia Yunis, former organizer and curator of the festival, for sharing this (...)

21These anxieties are well summarized in The Gamboo3a Revolution. Created in 2012 by Emirati director Abdulrahman Al Madani, it met with huge success for a student film: when first screened at the Zayed University Middle East Film Festival in Abu Dhabi, the film was replayed five times, and an audience award was specifically created for it.30 It then circulated in festivals across the region, and continues to be occasionally screened today. Part of this success is certainly due to the fact that the film introduces multiple points of view on the hairdo – interviewing both male and female students. The film also features Widad Lutah and Ali Al Saloom, two public figures who embody the moral line of the Emirati state: they both present themselves as progressive and open to the global world, while attached to “Emirati values” and norms, and as committed to Islam, while adopting a reformist and moderate stance.

  • 31 Tibet refers to Mount Everest; Jebel Hafeet is a mountain in Al Ain, the second largest city in the (...)
  • 32 As his website presents him in the homepage video: https://alialsaloom.com/. Ali Al Saloom was part (...)

22Both emphasize the excessive height of the hairdo: Widad Lutah recalls seeing a “four-stories gambūʿa”: “I have no idea how she managed to put on one that’s so big. [...] First, every passerby was laughing at her, even the kids passing [by] were laughing at her. […] Imagine a shēla on top of a gambūʿa as tall as Jebel Hafeet or even Tibet!”31 The second interviewee, Ali Al Saloom, who has built a career as a “cultural expert,”32 adds: “the exaggeration in the type of gambūʿa based on its size, width, and height, is what makes people feel threatened by it [...] Many girls compete with each other over the size of their gambūʿa.” Others, like the Al-Ittiḥād column, wield a hygienist lexicon – arguing that a voluminous gambūʿa, just like high-heeled shoes, is detrimental to young women’s health.

  • 33 Bromberger, 2010 explores the longstanding association between long hair and women’s sexual availab (...)

23While these normative discourses seem to establish a boundary between a gambūʿa of acceptable size and one of excessive height – just like there would be a threshold separating “good taste” from excess in the amount of make-up a girl uses, or in the size of her heels – they quickly devolve to deriding girls’ behavior as a whole. The authors present themselves as motivated by the well-being of young women – in terms of both reputation and health – while simultaneously reiterating gendered stereotypes. They describe “girls” as seeking men’s attention by falsely emphasizing a feminine attribute, giving the illusion of long hair under the shēla;33 and competing with each other in the process. Male online media users often echoed these stereotypes by expressing their lack of attraction, or even disgust, for the hairdo: “the most beautiful women are those whose first half is quietness (hudū’) and the second modesty (ḥayā’). […] Not half #Louis_Vuitton half #gambūʿa,” wrote an Emirati Twitter user in 2012. Another one asked, in English: “Will #Emirati girls ever get it, a #gamboo3a is disgusting... Since when a bigger head is a sign of beauty?”

Fig. 5.

Fig. 5.

The husband-accessory, by Abdulaziz Yousef. Posted on Instagram (@temsa7comics), May 13, 2012.

  • 34 For an exploration of these questions in Qatar (where the cartoonist is from), see: Montigny, 2002; (...)
  • 35 Breteau, 2019; Carvalho-Pinto, 2012.

24Going further, accusations of excessive consumerism portray girls’ behavior as a threat to established gender roles. Qatari cartoonist Abdulaziz Yousef thus draws husbands reduced to the status of the latest fashion item (Fig. 5): “Now in the markets… the husband-accessory!! Reserve your sample!” advertises the cartoon. It features two intimidating Khaleeji women: each wears a large gambūʿa, a tightly-fitted ʿabāya, and bright make-up. The husbands, traditional providers and heads of the family, now hang shapelessly on their spouses’ shoulders like another handbag – they occupy much less visual space, and seem only useful insofar as they fit into (and potentially finance) these consumerist lifestyles. One of the women is Black; the other is White. While many interpretations of this racialized dimension are possible, they most likely depict different perceived threats to gender and national identity. The woman on the left, who sports purple hair and trendy sunglasses, represents an external threat, the dangers of Westernization, through the import of foreign aesthetic styles. On her part, the Afro-Khaleeji woman is, in a sense, a foreigner from within; she recalls regional histories of slavery and migration, and upsets official representations of Gulf citizenries as racially homogeneous.34 Black women are also typically stereotyped, in Khaleeji popular culture and throughout the Arab world, as either masculine or hyper-sexualized. Here, the character combines both traits: her sexualization is accompanied by a reversal of gender roles. Further, the presence of the husbands points to a future threat: that of racially ambiguous children, raised by dominant, inauthentic mothers and submissive fathers. Produced by a young man, the cartoon echoes a widespread, stereotypical concern, according to which Khaleeji women and their families would only be interested in the financial capability of a future spouse. Quite paradoxically, this rhetoric is sometimes used by Khaleeji men to justify their marriages to foreign women.35

  • 36 Abu Shehab, 2000: 149.
  • 37 Le Renard, 2014.
  • 38 See Arabian Humanities, issue 1 “Gender Transformations in the Arabian Peninsula,” notably the arti (...)

25The media representations discussed in this section thus construct Khaleeji girls as dangerous to social order – in particular to established gender roles and national identity. Discourses and cartoons around the gambūʿa are situated in a context of heavily transforming gender roles, notably in the sphere of consumption. Anthropologist Amina Abu Shehab notes how the consumption boom that followed the oil wealth in the UAE brought about greater financial responsibilities for men, while women became the ones managing the family’s budget and spending: within the household, therefore, “women appear as the keen consumers of men’s money.”36 Starting from the 1990s, another transformation took place: the massive entry of young Khaleeji women into the workforce, alongside access to new spaces of consumption like shopping malls.37 This phenomenon both reinforces the association between women and consumption, and disrupts gender hierarchies. It is the combined result of educational policies which encourage women’s access to higher education; the availability of foreign domestic workers whose labor “frees” time for female citizens to work outside the home; and the intensification of labor nationalization policies at the turn of the 21st century across all Gulf states, with the aim of reducing the dependence on foreign labor.38 The employment opportunities opened up by these policies were particularly seized upon by female citizens.

  • 39 McRobbie, 2000; Salamandra, 2012; Thiel-Stern, 2014.

26Normative discourses about the gambūʿa can then be read as a reaction to young women’s new economic power, as well as their increased agency in terms of consumption. The literature on gender and moral panics shows how women’s agency is often sexualized, and therefore portrayed as immoral and dangerous, especially when it is accompanied by their growing visibility in public spaces.39 By labeling the hairstyle as excessive, discourses around the gambūʿa thus draw the limits of acceptable spending. And by depicting young Khaleeji women’s consumerist practices as a way to draw men’s attention, they warn against the perceived dangers associated with women’s financial autonomy.

  • 40 This has been analyzed in the case of Saudi Arabia by Le Renard, 2014.
  • 41 I discuss them notably in Assaf, 2017b.

27These tensions around girls’ fashion reflect broader contradictions at the heart of the Gulf states’ social, economic and political projects. In the UAE, the state’s agenda oscillates between the need to maintain welfare towards Emirati citizens and ensure the population’s support, and a neoliberal orientation that seeks to implement economic diversification and attract wealthy foreigners as investors, consumers, and tourists. The shopping malls where girls display their gambūʿa are one of the most visible outcomes of these combined injunctions.40 This project, however, has not gone without tensions. Some segments of the national population have criticized its consumerist orientation – specifically after the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 highlighted the fragility of this economic model. Others have felt increasingly alienated by developments that they perceive as catering in priority to foreigners, bringing unfair competition to the job market, and marginalizing local norms. Conflicts around dress codes in shopping malls, which were revived around the same time as the moral panic about the gambūʿa, outline these anxieties.41 In this context, controversies around the gambūʿa are particularly significant: as a morally debatable outcome of the UAE’s consumer market, the hairdo highlights the contradictions of the state’s project and threatens, in a sense, this fragile equilibrium.

From moral panic to ridicule: The making of a meme

  • 42 Shifman, 2014 cited by Zidani, 2020.

28Several of the young women interviewed in The Gamboo3a Revolution talk about the hairdo as an already “old trend,” quickly losing in popularity. Indeed, by the time the movie was first screened at Zayed University in 2012, the gambūʿa had almost disappeared from the public spaces of Gulf cities, where it had been replaced by other clothing trends. Concomitantly, however, the gambūʿa was increasingly popular on online forums and social media. Jokes about the hairdo started to spread through humoristic posts and cartoons. In short, the gambūʿa turned into a meme – defined by Limor Shifman as “(a) a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance, which (b) were created with awareness of each other, and (c) were circulated, imitated, and/or transformed via the Internet by many users.”42

  • 43 I borrow these terms from Zidani, 2020.

29This transition to online spaces allowed for many shifts in the meaning of the gambūʿa. By mobilizing humor, cartoons turned the moral panic into laughter about a hairdo depicted as ridicule. While still used as a vector of social control and the enforcement of norms, online humor thus simultaneously attenuated the weight of religious and moral condemnations. In this section, I show how it did so by shifting accusations of foreignness and impropriety towards absurd, comedic analogies relying on a shared popular culture. In turn, memes were “remixed” and “mashed up” with other cultural references, thus “reorienting” humor about the hairdo towards specific kinds of publics.43 This reorientation allowed Khaleeji youth in general, and young women in particular, to appropriate the meme and make their own voices heard in online spaces.

30While condemnations of the gambūʿa relied on one authoritative source – the ḥadīth discussed above – posts on online forums and social media platforms were characterized by a multiplicity of users and cultural references, and discussions quickly moved towards laughter. A 2009 thread on a Kuwaiti forum, entitled “In solidarity with the national campaign to stop the ḥijāb bū nafkha,” starts with a post calling other members to “pay attention to the gravity (khuṭūra) of such a matter” and to support and spread the campaign “to abolish this shameful matter” (li-ʾizālat hādhā-l-ʾamr al-mushīn). While most of the replies seem to agree with this initial post, few heed the “gravity” it calls for. In fact, comments quickly devolve into irony. “On the contrary, the puffy ḥijāb has amazing advantages!” writes a user, before posting a series of humoristic cartoons showing women using the hairdo as a storage space for various objects. The next post contests the legitimacy of the issue, highlighting that there are more serious matters to discuss. A female user ironically laments the fact that putting an end to this phenomenon would be bad news for “the Indians who sell the shabbāṣāt” (hair clips), whose “livelihood would be cut off.” Another writes: “Girls in this costume offer temptation for the aliens to invade planet earth.” This sentence is followed by a snapshot of the Martians’ long head in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! movie, after which the poster solemnly concludes: “I stand with this campaign.”

  • 44 Billig, 2005: 180-211.

31These comments are a few examples among others of the multiple online discourses about the hairdo. Like most virtual data, they are hard to interpret, as they take on different meanings depending on each user – meanings that can shift from one post to the next, and can vary widely according to how individuals receive, spread, and produce online content. One can nevertheless recognize some of the tropes discussed in earlier sections: the foreignness of the hairdo, through the mention of the Indian salespeople (which also connotes the shabbāṣa as a cheap accessory), or the vocabulary of seduction and temptation. These online comments thus also single out “girls,” but they construct them as ridicule rather than as ḥarām. Michael Billig has highlighted how ridicule is a form of “disciplinary humor,” which works to maintain social order through embarrassment.44 While still seeking to discipline girls’ fashion, online humor displaces moral blame towards embarrassment.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

“The niqāb [face veil] before… and now” (from right to left), Adel Al Qallaf. Posted on Flickr on November 12, 2009.

32Once they had entered the realm of humor, online productions about the gambūʿa grew in exaggeration and absurdity, further shifting representations of the hairdo. Different stances often coexisted within an individual’s online production, like in the case of Kuwaiti cartoonist Adel Al Qallaf. In addition to his work for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyāsa, Al Qallaf first posted his cartoons on platforms such as Blogspot and Flickr, and more recently, Instagram. A prolific author, he produced over twenty cartoons on the topic of the gambūʿa, which were largely circulated on online forums and in Twitter posts. Some of them are aligned with the normative discourses discussed above: Al Qallaf’s cartoons more generally mock cosmetic surgery or denounce the indecency of women’s new clothing styles (Fig. 6). In this perspective, the gambūʿa is caricatured as yet another part of their bodies that young women are seeking to enhance – alongside their lips, bottoms, or breasts – and derided for its sexual appeal and immodesty.

33But many of Al Qallaf’s cartoons move away from this normative tone to play on the various tropes that spread around the gambūʿa. Thus the moralistic “national campaigns” against the hairdo become, under the caricaturist’s pencil, a “campaign to deflate it,” which offers to distribute complimentary pins to volunteers willing to pierce as many gambū‘āt as possible. Another cartoon, in the form of an ad for a protein supplement, offers to grow a “puff with strong muscles” – thus mocking simultaneously a typically masculine form of body enhancement. Yet another of Al Qallaf’s cartoons depicts a camel surprised to find out that girls have a hump like him (Fig. 7). The initial association between the hairdo and the camel indeed gave way to many animal resonances – to the point that it became one of the main comedic tropes around the gambūʿa. Emirati cartoonist Khaled Al Jabri suggests, on his part, a more poetic parallel between a gambūʿa-wearer and an octopus in the aquarium she visits – with the cephalopod looking curiously (or in a flirty manner?) at this strange kin (Fig. 8).

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

“I didn’t know girls had a hump like us!” Adel Al Qallaf. Posted on Flickr on February 12, 2008.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

Cartoon by Khaled Al Jabri. Re-posted on Twitter by the artist in 2013.

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

‘Īd-kum Mubārak,” Author unidentified.

  • 45 Warner, 2002 defines a public as constituted by the discourse that addresses it (it “exists by virt (...)

34Animal cartoons are often based on an analogy of shape between the hairdo and various parts of animal bodies. On the one hand, they therefore reinforce the ridicule, by playing on the strangeness and otherness of the gambūʿa – suggesting that it brings young women closer to the realm of animality. On the other hand, these cartoons mobilize a more referential style of humor, which presupposes a familiarity with the hairdo and with the various debates and jokes that took place around it. Unlike the didactic pictures discussed earlier, which distinguished between two types of audiences – “girls” in need of guidance, and the general public encouraged to share in the indignation towards the gambūʿa – both are all lumped here into the same “public.”45 Indeed, the absence or scarcity of text makes it so that only those with the necessary cultural references can get the joke. This is particularly visible in Figure 9, which takes the form of a humoristic Eid al-Adha greeting: the sacrificed sheep, the main ritual element of the festival, has disappeared under a woman’s shēla in order to create a bulky gambūʿa. The cartoon clearly addresses Khaleeji and broader Muslim audiences who are able to understand both references – and to recognize another major comedic trope around the hairdo, which consists of asking what’s in a gambūʿa, i.e., what objects girls use to achieve its excessive shape.

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Digital art by Ashgar Alreesh, representing one of the protagonists of Mars Attacks! Posted on Instagram on November 4, 2014 with the hashtag “gambūʿa.” One of the comments mentions: “I mean, we entered globalization through the gambūʿa.

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

“Evolution.” Author and date unknown. Reposted on Twitter and Reddit in 2012-2014.

35This referential humor was pushed further in memes associating the gambūʿa with a different form of otherness – one could say, the climax of alterity: that from outer space. As we’ve already seen, Tim Burton’s 1996 movie Mars Attacks!, with its long-headed aliens invading planet Earth, was a popular parallel used to describe the irruption of the gambūʿa in Gulf cities (Fig. 10). Another meme that circulated online portrayed the hairdo as the product of an “evolution” that ties it to the famous monsters of the Alien film franchise (Fig. 11).

  • 46 Zidani, 2020.
  • 47 This reflexive dimension is at the heart of Warner’s definition of a public (ibid.).
  • 48 Zidani, 2020: 3207.

36This other series of memes around the gambūʿa belongs to the form of the “mash-up,” insofar as it combines elements from different cultural realms: each are identifiable in their own right, but their combination elicits new meanings.46 While the animal cartoons address a Khaleeji public familiar with the hairdo, the alien ones add another layer of literacy: they suppose fluency in the global, Hollywood-based popular culture of the 1990s. These memes thus address a specific public: the generations who grew up in the Gulf at the turn of the 21st century and had access to international media products. Through these shared references, the memes contribute to constituting these generations as a collective on social media, and work as a form of mutual recognition among their members.47 Symmetrically, this double literacy actually characterizes this generation: as Sulafa Zidani notes about online memes produced and consumed by young Arabs, the cultures these memes reference “are both ‘their own’.”48

37Just like the aliens invade Earth in these two movies, these memes depict the gambūʿa taking over the world, beyond the Gulf region. Their authors, and the users who retweet their works, thus seem to suggest that, through the hairdo, Khaleeji pop culture not only crosses over to, but also competes with, US cultural hegemony. This last point is comically illustrated by an image that was first posted on a Twitter parody account (now deleted) named @OhMyLocal, devoted to caricaturing stereotypical Khaleeji behaviors (Fig. 12). The picture shows Mickey Mouse anxious about his transformation into a “local” (a term often used, in English, to refer to the national population in Gulf countries): instead of his symbolic two ears, he now just has one gambūʿa above his head.

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

“Mickey Mouse – local version.” Originally posted on Twitter in July 2011 by the now-deleted parody account @OhMyLocal and retweeted by several users.

Appropriating the meme

  • 49 Salamandra, 2012: 59.

38The previous sections show how the transformation of the gambūʿa into a meme allowed a semiotic shift in the meanings associated with the hairdo. Symmetrically, the girls who wear it went from being construed as immoral or dangerous to ridicule, and ultimately to representatives of a generation well-versed in both American and Khaleeji popular cultures. Many authors have underlined how the Internet has transformed moral panics by allowing the groups they target to “talk back.” As Christa Salamandra notes: “In the age of interactive media (…) objects of concern (…) may have a voice.”49

39Indeed, a significant part of the online discourse around the hairdo was produced by young women themselves; on Twitter, they represent two thirds of the users commenting. In this section, I turn to these comments to explore how girls responded to dominant discourses about the gambūʿa. I show how their appropriations of the meme highlighted differences across the category of “girls,” while also denouncing the contradictory injunctions to which they are subjected.

40Tweets by young women about the gambūʿa can roughly be divided into two categories, which sustain different relations with dominant discourses.

  • 50 These are extracts of tweets written, for the first one, in 2012 in English by a user in Dubai, and (...)
  • 51 Tweet from 2012, in English and Arabīzi.
  • 52 Tweet from 2012, in English, by a Qatar-based user. “Wth” is an acronym for “what the hell.”

41The first category are comments that reject this practice, and in so doing contest its association with the category of “girls” as a whole – essentially stating that not all girls are concerned. Some of these are aligned with, or retweet, condemnations expressed by male users, though very few reiterate the moral and religious condemnations of the hairdo. Rather, they revolve around expressions of personal taste (“I can’t look at them anymore”; “This trend with the hijab does not add to your beauty”).50 More often, these comments express concern about how girls in general might be perceived because of the gambūʿa: “When will you girls get over the #Gamboo3a #puffs etc... :) kil7ad e3ayb 3ala banat bladna [everyone shames the girls of our country],” writes a young woman based in the UAE.51 Another female user retweets an official picture posted by a foreign university in Doha and featuring a prominent gambūʿa, commenting: “Wth :) that's how they represent a qatari girl :).”52 At the same time as these comments distance their authors from this trend, they challenge the idea that it would be representative of girls’ practices in general. Here, young women’s voices, while adhering to dominant norms, restore the heterogeneity of the category of Khaleeji girls, and underline the diversity of their clothing practices – as varied as the linguistic forms through which they express it.

42The second category – a majority of the online content produced by young women – engaged in self-derisive humor, making fun of their own practice and of the consumerist lifestyles it is a part of. The late 2000s and early 2010s indeed saw the emergence on Twitter of various accounts that caricatured Khaleeji lifestyles, like the already mentioned OhMyLocal, or others called Lochal_Invasion or Typical5aleeji (typical Khaleeji). Though some of them were short-lived, they participated in creating a sense of a common Khaleeji popular culture, and played a large role in spreading and producing memes.

  • 53 I had a few online exchanges with the account’s owner, which confirmed her gender identity.

43Young women participated actively in this production, as in the case of a Twitter and Facebook account named “OMGamboo3a” – a play on OMG, an online acronym for Oh my God – operated by a young woman from Dubai and active between 2010 and 2013.53 The account comedically impersonated a stereotypical Khaleeji woman, well-versed in high-end brands and conspicuous luxury, and obsessed both with her gambūʿa and her shopping trips to London. The tweets also play on linguistic registers; written in the first person, they use an English reflecting a strong Khaleeji accent, thus indicating a specific class position (Fig. 13). The account also posted drawings, often revolving around the composition of the gambūʿa (Fig. 14).

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

Tweet by the OMGamboo3a account, making use of Arabized English while referencing a global jewelry brand (“Is it a special edition with pink Swarovski?”).

  • 54 Buckingham, 2016; Hopkyns & Zoghbor, 2022.
  • 55 Hopkyns, 2020.
  • 56 This is also a consequence of the “Western privilege” identified by Amélie Le Renard (2021), who sh (...)

44Tweets using dialectal Arabic, English, Arabīzi, and often a combination of these, are representative of the general speech patterns of Khaleeji youth. Although there are important national and sub-national variations, a majority of these youths have been educated in bilingual schools, and often only in English at the university level.54 Just like they are at ease with both North American and Khaleeji cultural references, they often code-switch between English and Arabic. At the same time, wide differences in English-language proficiency mark distinctions within the national communities of Gulf countries. As Sarah Hopkyns puts it, English is “wanted but not welcome:”55 while many media discourses around the region lament the dwindling of Arabic, access to higher education and desirable jobs largely relies on English fluency.56

45By poking fun at strongly-accented English, the OMGamboo3a account therefore creates a specific character: the wealthy but poorly-educated Khaleejiyya, who has adopted the bling of global luxury brands but whose provincial ethos shows through her pronunciation and her ignorance of more specialized vocabulary, like the X-ray. In other words, she has failed to turn her economic capital into a cultural one. While she might represent a foil for Twitter users who portray themselves as more sophisticated, she is also a familiar character. Many users indeed directly interacted with the account and addressed the character herself, for example, by asking if she was the owner of the tall gambūʿa they saw at Dubai’s Mercato Mall the day before, or encouraging her to keep tweeting. While most of the jokes posted by the account are articulated around common themes with the cartoons examined earlier – consumerism, conspicuousness, excess – they speak from the point of view of the Khaleejiyya, and make fun with her as much as of her.

46My female interlocutors, the majority of them Emirati students enrolled in various public universities in Abu Dhabi, had very differential access to the consumerist practices caricatured in these tweets, depending on their family’s income and their means of mobility in the city. They also had strong opinions about dress codes, and about dominant media discourses on their clothing practices.

47Conversations with young Emirati women first underlined their varying attitudes towards the national dress. Public universities, which are gender-segregated, impose the ʿabāya and shēla as a dress code on female campuses. While most of the young women I encountered were also wearing the national dress outside of the university, this was not always the case. In general, though, female students discussed their modifications and adornment of the national dress as a consequence of its omnipresence: because they had to wear the ʿabāya and shēla, expressions of taste and status all made use of these garments. Some even saw the gambūʿa as a direct consequence of this norm, arguing that the large hairclip allowed the shēla to stay in place and prevented them from having to constantly readjust it.

48In this context, the gambūʿa constituted one element among a wide range of sartorial practices that came to qualify the national dress. Specific fabrics, designs, and accessories (belts, bags) indeed signal one’s social class, as the price of an ʿabāya varies widely according to these criteria. They also showcase personal taste and fashion choices: the gambūʿa emerged at a time (the late 2000s) when the black ʿabāya was still normative, but when specific additions, like embroidered or sequined sleeves, gained in popularity. These designs, in turn, are today (2020s) considered out of fashion, and the colored ʿabāya is trending.

  • 57 Emo is a music genre that experienced a revival in the 2000s-2010s. It gave way to specific fashion (...)
  • 58 Dress codes on campuses, and young women’s adoptions of variously transgressive “styles” have been (...)

49Whether they wore a gambūʿa or stayed away from it, my interlocutors consistently pointed out that this was a trend among others – and that, as we spoke, the trend was fading. As we were discussing the hairdo, Sara and Shamma, two friends in their early twenties, explained that this was neither the first nor the last time that girls’ fashion had created a moral panic: earlier, people were worried about the būyāt (girls cross-dressing) and, now that the gambūʿa was fading, the androgynous “emo”57 style was both the new trend and the latest object of concern for moral authorities. Both were from Emirati families with modest means, and wore a plain black ʿabāya. Their observations about clothing trends came from watching their classmates and receiving injunctions from the university’s administration, which kept issuing flyers and guidelines to regulate students’ dress codes.58

50Depicting the gambūʿa as merely a fashion trend – indeed, amplifying the fact that it was a frivolous, anecdotal phenomenon – was an important way for young women to reject the moral condemnations leveled at the category of “girls.” It raised the question of why such serious discourses were produced about such an unimportant thing. The short movie The Gamboo3a Revolution offers an interesting perspective on this topic, by juxtaposing the points of view of male and female students. In one interview, a male student suggests that “anyone would involuntarily judge by her appearance” a young woman wearing perfume and showing her “inner clothes” under the ʿabāya. The following sequence responds to this discourse: A female student states that she does not know why “society always focuses on clothes,” rather than on “manners and behaviors” (al-’adab wa-l-ʾakhlāq). Another female student adds: “the gambūʿa never influences the personality of a girl.”

51Describing the gambūʿa as a trend thus allows young women to reverse the discourses addressed to them. As we’ve seen, much of the condemnation around the gambūʿa portrays girls as superficial and preoccupied with consumerist goods. By insisting on the fact that this is a fleeting fashion, young women highlight how, in a sense, their critics fail to practice what they preach: they derive a moral judgment from appearances, and mistake the exteriority for the interiority. This argument is convergent with the one proposed by Amélie Le Renard when she shows how the būyāt in Saudi Arabia portray their cross-dressing as a simple fashion trend; this allows them to avoid further probing into the more socially dangerous question of their sexual orientation.

  • 59 Zidani, 2020: 3204.

52Sulafa Zidani describes popular culture as an avenue for marginalized groups to “describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made about them.”59 In this sense, the gambūʿa-as-meme certainly allowed young women to voice their opinions and reflect on their own practices, whether they contested their association with the hairdo, embraced it in a self-derisive manner, or highlighted the triviality of the topic. These engagements remain marked by a certain ambivalence: while turning the gambūʿa into a meme and an object of humor helped in depicting the hairdo as a fun, fleeting fashion (rather than a sign of Khaleeji girls’ immorality), some young women also saw these online productions as a reminder of a controversial fashion trend they would have preferred to forget.

What’s in a gambūʿa? The hairdo as a metonym

53The wide variety of references to the gambūʿa analyzed so far points to the ambivalent semiotics of the hairdo. For some, it is the sign of a loss of moral values; for others, an indication of girls gone rogue; for others yet, a harmless fashion trend, rich in comedic potential, while many young women interpreted the focus on the hairdo as an example of the double standards of a patriarchal society. This variety of meanings reinforces the argument that the gambūʿa allowed to transcribe specific anxieties about identity and social change at the heart of contemporary Gulf societies. In this last section, I focus on this regional and generational dimension to consider how the gambūʿa became a metonym for a popular regional identity, i.e. one that is located at the scale of individuals rather than that of geopolitical relations.

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

“The best place for those who want to grill skewers,” Younis Al Balushi, posted on Twitter on September 26, 2015.

Fig. 15

Fig. 15

Image and tweet posted by the Twitter account OMGamboo3a in 2010.

  • 60 Nido is a brand belonging to Nestlé; it is produced in Morocco and commercialized across the Arab w (...)

54One of the major comedic tropes around the gambūʿa provided an ideal avenue for these regional references. Indeed, a recurring source of comedy around the hairdo stemmed from answering the question: what’s in a gambūʿa? In other words, what do young women add to their hair in order to achieve this volume? Among the most common answers given on social media were yogurt pots and Nido cans, a powder milk brand with large cylindrical containers. These products are themselves regional references: Nido cans are a familiar, everyday item for those who grew up in the Arab world, and are associated with childhood.60

  • 61 Indeed, many Facebook groups, Instagram pages and other social media collectives are dedicated to t (...)

55Under the pencil of Omani cartoonist Younis Al Balooshi, the gambūʿa literally becomes the “best place for those who want to make mashākīk” – the meat skewers that are cooked on small grills along the beach or on the streets in Oman (Fig. 14). When the author of the OMGamboo3a account finally posts a drawing of an “X-ray” of the hairdo (Fig. 15), it reveals an assemblage of objects referring to specific spaces and times: the Oman-produced Pofak chips available in all the gas stations and small baqālāt (grocery shops); the Nokia mobile phone of the 1990s-2000s, and the BlackBerry of the 2010s; or the soda bottle imported from India. Another tweet suggests that the gambūʿa “full option” also contains rigāg (a kind of Emirati bread) and a pot of karak, the South Asian tea that has become a staple of the UAE’s urban landscape. A striking element of this meme is its embeddedness in what could be considered a material culture of the Gulf region – associated with the generations who came of age at the turn of the 21st century. Just like online discussions around the hairdo reflect the diverse linguistic practices of these generations, the material cultures they reference recall their everyday childhood experiences in the urban spaces of Gulf cities. Gambūʿa memes thus combined with, and took part in, a different type of online content, widespread across the region: the nostalgic recollection of the 1980s-90s, on social media and in artistic works produced by members of these generations.61

  • 62 Herzfeld, 1997.
  • 63 Ibid.: 20.

56While paying tribute to local and national specificities, these memes thus tap into a collective Khaleeji imaginary which is also highly generational, and in which the gambūʿa has now been included. It could thus be argued that they participate in the formation (or the reassertion) of a regional “cultural intimacy.”62 This concept, coined by Michael Herzfeld, aims to define national identity through its “vernacular cultural forms,” rather than through the official representations produced by the state. Herzfeld indeed underlines how the sense of a shared identity takes its roots in “national embarrassment” as much as national pride: communities largely exist through “those dirty jokes that never make it to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.”63 In this perspective, the ability of memes and online cartoons to elicit commonalities precisely on the basis of embarrassment and bad jokes makes them potent instruments of cultural intimacy.

  • 64 AlSuwaidi, 2021.
  • 65 See Al Yūsufī, 05/05/2010. The article offers a very balanced coverage, citing many female students (...)
  • 66 Carapico, 2004.

57While the notion of cultural intimacy was coined to depict national belonging and identity, it is productive to think beyond the national scale – especially in a geographical space like the Gulf, where nation-states are a very recent project, and where most national borders were traced in the second half of the 20th century. Further, I would argue that the phenomenon of the gambūʿa renders visible an imagined regional community that tends to be obscured in the official discourses of the Gulf states, which focus on the national scale – though recent artistic productions have, by contrast, explored the idea of “Khaleejiness.”64 Neither does this community espouse geopolitical definitions of the region; the same memes circulated on Yemeni discussion forums, and the gambūʿa was discussed in Yemeni media,65 thus challenging the separation between Yemen and the GCC countries. In a sense, popular responses to the gambūʿa highlight what scholars of the region have long called for: the necessity to explore the coherence and shared identity of the Arabian Peninsula as a cultural area.66

Fig. 16

Fig. 16

“Blayboy.” Posted on 9GAG in 2011, Author unknown.

  • 67 It is certainly not a coincidence that this character in particular was chosen. As Frédéric Lagrang (...)
  • 68 The reference to belly dancers might also be a critique of the safaris organized for tourists in th (...)

58An image posted on 9GAG in 2011 illustrates the gambūʿa’s capacity to elicit cultural intimacy (Fig. 16), even within a discourse focused on the immorality of the hairdo and the clothing styles it accompanies. Representing the imagined cover of a December 2010 edition of a localized Playboy (“Blayboy”) with a Khaleejiyya wearing a gambūʿa and tight dress at the center, the image is saturated with highly referential text. In addition to explicit references to the Middle East and camels, the imagined headlines evoke Umm Khammās – a character of the Emirati cartoon series Freej (Frīj);67 the patrimonial dance al-yōla, which involves men dancing with guns;68 the traditional female face cover burgaʿ; or the muʿallāyya dancers, a type of folk dance associated with weddings that involves rapid, sexualized movements of the hips and behind by female dancers. The cover also evokes practices characteristic of Gulf youth, such as cruising in the car and flirting (taghazzal), the two activities being often combined, notably along the roads of Jumeirah in Dubai. The image thus concentrates a plethora of references that are only legible to a Khaleeji audience and go from national heritage, to official cultural productions, and to trendy urban spots. It also adopts a provocative stance, both by subverting heritage symbols through their sexualization (like camel racing or the burgaʿ) and by proposing an inventory of practices that have been objects of moral panics, or are widely regarded as shameful or deviant (from the gambūʿa and make-up to the muʿallāyya dancers, and even a reference to zoophilia). The tone is that of scandal; cultural intimacy here takes the form of a parodic exposure of the “dirty secrets” of Khaleeji societies.

  • 69 A linguistic analysis of this particular episode can be found in AlMaazmi, 2021.

59This metonymic dimension of the gambūʿa culminates in an episode of the Emirati cartoon series Shaabiat al-Cartoon (Shaʿbiyyat al-Kartūn, “Cartoon District”) released in 2008, which revolves entirely around the gambūʿa and largely contributed to the online popularity of the hairdo. Created by Emirati cartoonist Haidar Mohammad, the series takes place in a popular neighborhood of Dubai (sha‘biyya). In a similar manner to Freej, its herd of characters represents the social and ethnic diversity of Emirati society, with specific accents and stereotypes attributed to each.69

60The episode starts as Amoon, a young woman, enters the majlis where her mother and neighbors are gathered. The older women look at her in awe, and then in disapproval, as they discover the puff that adorns the girl’s hair. The scene cuts to the next day, in the same majlis… where all the older women are now sporting the gambūʿa. What ensues is a fast-paced competition to determine who will have the tallest one. Each woman tries to outbid the others: Amoon slides a biker’s helmet under her shēla; one of the neighbors attempts to use her toddler son; the rest grab respectively – and in growing sizes – a bucket; a water reservoir; and a satellite dish. The competition comes to a head when Amoon’s friend pumps air into the girl’s shēla with a tire inflator. In response, Umm Suleyman, the greediest of the old ladies, asks a car mechanic to inflate her gambūʿa with nitrogen. The mechanic complies. The camera frame then zooms out to show Umm Suleyman’s sky-blue gambūʿa growing to the size of a tire pile; then a building; and soon covering Burj Khalifa and extending beyond Dubai’s skyline. An approaching Emirates Airlines plane cannot avoid the looming hairdo: the collision results in a nuclear-style mushroom explosion that leaves Dubai in ruins (Fig. 17). The gambūʿa is literally responsible for the apocalypse.

61In a humoristic tone, the cartoon takes up the theme of the obsession for heights which is recurrent in public discourses around the gambūʿa. But this scene also builds a clear parallel with another obsession for heights: that of Dubai’s urban development itself, and more generally the Gulf region’s. In this sense, the threat posed by the gambūʿa can be interpreted in relation to the anxieties created by the fast-paced economic and urban growth of Gulf cities, and the social change it brought about – of which the Dubai landscape and its spectacular transformation is certainly the most symbolic, with skyscrapers now standing in the place of the shaʿbiyya or the frīj. In this light, the threat represented by the hairdo indexes, much more broadly, the threat of the rapid urban and social transformations undergone by the region. Both the debates and jokes surrounding the hairdo thus turned it into a metonymic figure, crystallizing many of the tensions and contradictions at the heart of Gulf societies’ recent history.

Fig. 17

Fig. 17

Screenshots from Shaabiat al Cartoon, Episode 3, 2008.

Conclusion

62Tracing the “cultural fortunes” of the gambūʿa highlights the evolutions in the representations of the hairdo, from an object of moral panic to an Internet meme. Indeed, the gambūʿa first elicited discourses of condemnation that were widely spread on online forums, and mobilized the idioms of immodesty and shame. I have argued that the interactive dimension of these forums, and of the social media platforms to which these debates then moved, transformed these condemnations through humor: the gambūʿa went from being a morally dubious garment to a ridiculous one, and blame was turned into embarrassment. In turn, online humor about the hairdo was combined with other references and “reoriented,” both allowing young women to take part in these cultural productions and crystallizing a Khaleeji pop culture. In a sense, asking sarcastically on Twitter “what’s in a gambūʿa?” effectively transformed what was in the gambūʿa, from an abject diversion of the national dress to a regional private joke. Embarrassment and humor around the hairdo thus formed the basis of a “cultural intimacy” at the scale of the Gulf region.

63The analysis of the gambūʿa phenomenon contributes both to broader studies of moral panics and youth subcultures, and to a better understanding of this regional popular culture.

  • 70 See McRobbie, 2000 for the UK; Salamandra, 2012 on the Arab world; and Thiel-Stern, 2014 for the US
  • 71 Hall, 1976.
  • 72 Sabry & Ftouni, 2016: 3.

64While the contents of the debates that surrounded the hairdo are specific to the region, their form – i.e., the way these anxieties coalesced into a moral panic around the practices of “girls” – is common across many historical and cultural contexts.70 At the same time, the gambūʿa entertains an ambivalent relationship with dominant norms. I’ve shown how it is embedded in consumerist practices, and tightly associated with the national dress and the shēla. Unlike classical definitions of subcultural styles, then, this practice cannot easily be read as a form of “resistance” to a hegemonic culture.71 In line with Tarek Sabry and Layal Ftouni’s call to explore Arab subcultures that “are positioned in a differential relation to the dominant culture,”72 I argue that it is precisely this ambivalent position that allowed the gambūʿa’s transformation into a meme, and its mobilization as an element of regional identity. In a sense, the transgressive dimension of the hairdo was a question of degree (how excessive its height might be), rather than a question of nature (wearing a hairclip under the shēla, in itself, is not deviant with regard to dominant norms). The analysis proposed here could therefore be prolonged by exploring, by contrast, which clothing practices might be deemed too transgressive to be absorbed by online humor, as in the case of queer styles and cross-dressing, or revealing clothes.

  • 73 El Khachab, 2017: 338.
  • 74 Herzfeld notes that “National embarrassment can become the ironic basis of intimacy and affection, (...)

65Examining the gambūʿa also provides a better understanding of Khaleeji pop culture, in a context where the academic literature has focused on top-down processes of cultural production, in particular the Gulf states’ heavy investments in the cultural and heritage sectors, and the transnational, formal Arab media corporations, many of which are based in the Gulf. By contrast, discourses and memes around the gambūʿa shed light on the way cultural contents circulate across the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula through everyday uses of social media. These memes mobilize both national specificities and regional commonalities to elicit laughter, and concentrate some of the imaginaries and symbols of daily life in the Gulf. This ability to “compress scales” is, as Chihab El Khachab argues, both a feature of memes and online cartoons, and a reflection of “pre-existing attitudes.”73 In this sense, the gambūʿa came to reveal and reflect a sense of shared regional identity which was already present in the conversations, imaginaries, and cultural consumption of Khaleeji populations. It is important to note that this shared identity does not translate to an absence of difference; as we’ve seen, jokes about the gambūʿa largely address the internal diversity of Khaleeji societies, and play on the tensions around gender, class, and racial hierarchies. The notion of cultural intimacy precisely allows us to understand how embarrassment and conflict can be converted into affection and a sense of community.74 Memes play out these tensions and defuse them by bringing them into the space of online humor.

  • 75 El Sharkawy, 2020.
  • 76 I am greatly indebted to the reviewers of this paper for their insightful comments and bibliographi (...)

66If the gambūʿa has today largely disappeared from both the urban and online spaces of the Gulf, it sometimes makes quick reappearances. With time, the references have become more metalinguistic: online posts after 2015 indeed often merely include a picture featuring a puff – on anyone and anything, from a male athlete to an ice cream cone or a pigeon – accompanied by the hashtag #gambūʿa. This simple juxtaposition of the term and a shape that recalls the hairdo is enough to bring up the imaginaries associated with it, and to elicit laughter – indeed following the mechanism of the private joke or, in this case, the “culturally intimate joke.” If Khaleeji girls have moved on to other styles, different appropriations of the gambūʿa might emerge. During a presentation of this work, a workshop participant mentioned that the hairdo has now become “camp” – a category indexing exaggerated, ironic, and dramatic clothing styles, grounded both in highbrow and pop culture, and associated with the practice of drag. Camp indeed often references and accentuates the characteristics of women’s clothing: in the Arab world, it borrows from Egyptian films, haute couture, folk dresses, and Orientalist images.75 The gambūʿa thus may experience many afterlives; while some of them include more transgressive practices, they are no less representative of a shared regional culture.76

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Notes

1 From khalīj, Gulf. I use the transliterated form Khaleeji as an adjective, as it is the term used locally, and as there is no established adjective derived from ‘Gulf’ in English.

2 The term ‘Arabīzī comes from the contraction of the Arabic words for “Arabic” and “English.” Widely used online and especially associated with the youth, it refers to an Arabic transliteration system using a mix of Latin script and numerals.

3 Herzfeld, 1997.

4 I conducted semi-guided interviews on a variety of topics with around 50 students in two all-female colleges, as well as with a dozen young women attending co-ed universities. A few of them became friends and regular interlocutors throughout my 20 months of fieldwork in Abu Dhabi.

5 Media articles and films are cited in the bibliography. The social media content analyzed includes online forums, blogs, and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts. Cartoons and drawings are reproduced here with credits, following a fair use policy. I have chosen to anonymize tweets and forum posts and not mention usernames, with the exception of parody accounts and cartoonists posting their own work. The content from Twitter was gathered into a database of all tweets using the hashtags #gamboo3a and #قمبوعة, along with the tweet’s date and information about the user’s country and gender (when available).

6 Gunter, Elareshi, Al-Jaber, 2016: 7.

7 Jenkins, 2006.

8 Twitter was created in 2006 and became available in the Arabic language in 2012. Gulf countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, reached record proportions of users (Gunter, Elareshi, Al-Jaber, 2016). I collected 151 tweets posted between 2009 and 2022, with a majority (109) published between 2010 and 2012. The database includes 56 tweets using the Arabic hashtag, and 97 using the transliterated one. This is not necessarily an indicator of the language used; some authors write in Arabic with a hashtag in Latin script, and vice-versa; some use transliterated Arabic; some simply re-tweet content, at times adding onomatopoeia (“hahaha”) or emojis.

9 See : https://www.wsj.com/video/arab-fashion-bump-the-camel-hump/E46FEA4D-FECF-444C-8ABF-7A560BAA1EE2.html, consulted on Nov. 26, 2022.

10 ‘Azmī wa-Ashgān, episode 6. I thank Noura Al Obeidli for bringing this series to my attention. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdiCNin0Z48&ab_channel=ImediaSeries%7C%D8%A2%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA

11 Assaf & Montagne, 2019.

12 See respectively: Göle, 2003; Ahmed, 2021: 144-168; Adelkhah, 1991; Sadeghi, 2010.

13 Saḥīḥ Muslim, Book 53, ḥadīth 63; emphasis is on the picture. The Saḥīḥ Muslim is part of the two main canonical collections of aḥādīth in the Sunni tradition (Juynboll et al., 2012). In most instances when the ḥadīth was shared online, images did not indicate the chain of transmission (isnād) – see Figures 1 to 4. In debates around the hairdo, several commentators pointed out that this is actually a ‘weak’ ḥadīth, i.e. its provenance is dubious.

14 Sadeghi, 2010.

15 In his study on the UAE national dress, Sulayman Khalaf cites a pamphlet distributed at Zayed University in 1999 which makes use of the same ḥadīth. Presented as a mother’s letter to her daughter, the text warns her against the attraction of modern, yet immodest, clothing (Khalaf, 2005 : 261-262).

16 The bukht is a hybrid camel characterized by its two humps (sanāmayn); it is reputed for its beauty and thick fur. I thank Moza Al Otaiba for this insight.

17 This notion was first coined by Cohen, 2002 [1972].

18 Many of the forums I consulted are indeed identified by country – even though users often navigated across them and participated in several ones. They include Qatar Shares Network (see Fig. 4); Sabla Oman; Al-Shabaka al-Waṭaniyya al-Kuwaytiyya; Al-Kuwayt; Nabḍ Imārātī; ʿĀlam Hawwāʾ.

19 Al Yūsufī, 05/05/2010 mentions campaigns against the hairdo led by religious groups – including professors and administrators – on female campuses in Yemen, though they did not become official university policy.

20 Salamandra, 2012.

21 See Al-Qasimi, 2010 for a discussion of these terms (and their use by religious authorities) in relation to women’s self-presentations in the Saudi context.

22 Anonymous, 2011; my translation.

23 Khalaf, 2005.

24 Akinci, 2020; AlMutawa, 2016. It should be noted that differences in the fabric of the national dress (and its embroidery for women’s dress) have long acted as signals of class hierarchies within the national population.

25 Khalaf, 2005: 256-261.

26 Thiollet, 2022.

27 Ibid.:18-22.

28 Al Madani, Abdulrahman (dir.). 2012. The Gamboo3a Revolution (āhirat al-Gambūʿa). Dubai: Dubai Men’s College, Higher Colleges of Technology. Widad Lutah published a controversial book discussing sexual education and the secrets of a successful marriage, which owed her both praise from the international media and death threats. The latter, attributed in the local press to “fundamentalists,” without further precision, were presented as evidence of her progressive stance. The book indeed addressed homosexual practices by men – though it condemned them as having negative consequences on marital sexuality, their very mention was considered controversial. See Lutah, 2009.

29 Al-Qasimi, 2010.

30 My deepest thanks go to Alia Yunis, former organizer and curator of the festival, for sharing this information, as well as for giving me access to ZUMEFF at the time.

31 Tibet refers to Mount Everest; Jebel Hafeet is a mountain in Al Ain, the second largest city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, bordering Oman.

32 As his website presents him in the homepage video: https://alialsaloom.com/. Ali Al Saloom was particularly present in the UAE public sphere in the 2010s, disseminating an essentialized Emirati culture to foreign audiences through a column in the English-speaking daily The National, self-published guide books, and business consultancy sessions.

33 Bromberger, 2010 explores the longstanding association between long hair and women’s sexual availability.

34 For an exploration of these questions in Qatar (where the cartoonist is from), see: Montigny, 2002; Al-Mulla, 2017.

35 Breteau, 2019; Carvalho-Pinto, 2012.

36 Abu Shehab, 2000: 149.

37 Le Renard, 2014.

38 See Arabian Humanities, issue 1 “Gender Transformations in the Arabian Peninsula,” notably the articles by Le Renard, 2013 and Nagy, 2013.

39 McRobbie, 2000; Salamandra, 2012; Thiel-Stern, 2014.

40 This has been analyzed in the case of Saudi Arabia by Le Renard, 2014.

41 I discuss them notably in Assaf, 2017b.

42 Shifman, 2014 cited by Zidani, 2020.

43 I borrow these terms from Zidani, 2020.

44 Billig, 2005: 180-211.

45 Warner, 2002 defines a public as constituted by the discourse that addresses it (it “exists by virtue of being addressed,” p.50) and as predicated on “some degree of attention, however notional, from its members” (p.61).

46 Zidani, 2020.

47 This reflexive dimension is at the heart of Warner’s definition of a public (ibid.).

48 Zidani, 2020: 3207.

49 Salamandra, 2012: 59.

50 These are extracts of tweets written, for the first one, in 2012 in English by a user in Dubai, and for the second one in Gulf dialect in 2013 by a user based in Kuwait. All tweets mentioned in this section are written by young women.

51 Tweet from 2012, in English and Arabīzi.

52 Tweet from 2012, in English, by a Qatar-based user. “Wth” is an acronym for “what the hell.”

53 I had a few online exchanges with the account’s owner, which confirmed her gender identity.

54 Buckingham, 2016; Hopkyns & Zoghbor, 2022.

55 Hopkyns, 2020.

56 This is also a consequence of the “Western privilege” identified by Amélie Le Renard (2021), who shows how English proficiency – and in particular the ability to speak English without a strong accent – is one of the attributes of “Westernness” in Dubai. In turn, she argues that the ability to perform Westernness is widely considered as a signal of skill – and thus a means of access to professional careers – in the corporate world.

57 Emo is a music genre that experienced a revival in the 2000s-2010s. It gave way to specific fashion styles involving mainly dark colors, short hair and bangs, skinny jeans, and eyeliner.

58 Dress codes on campuses, and young women’s adoptions of variously transgressive “styles” have been well-studied in the case of Saudi Arabia by Le Renard, 2014.

59 Zidani, 2020: 3204.

60 Nido is a brand belonging to Nestlé; it is produced in Morocco and commercialized across the Arab world.

61 Indeed, many Facebook groups, Instagram pages and other social media collectives are dedicated to the nostalgic remembrance of this material culture, along with nostalgia for the urban landscapes of Gulf cities at the time, that have now been transformed. See Assaf, 2017a.

62 Herzfeld, 1997.

63 Ibid.: 20.

64 AlSuwaidi, 2021.

65 See Al Yūsufī, 05/05/2010. The article offers a very balanced coverage, citing many female students’ opinions on the topic.

66 Carapico, 2004.

67 It is certainly not a coincidence that this character in particular was chosen. As Frédéric Lagrange notes, in the cartoon, Umm Khammās is a “cook and wedding singer (ṭaggāga), Black, widow of a pearl diver, who represents both the “maritime” and “African” components of the population” (2013). It is thus a racialized character that is also sexualized here.

68 The reference to belly dancers might also be a critique of the safaris organized for tourists in the UAE’s desert, that present a reified version of Emirati heritage and often feature performance shows involving cultural forms that are foreign to the region, like belly dancing.

69 A linguistic analysis of this particular episode can be found in AlMaazmi, 2021.

70 See McRobbie, 2000 for the UK; Salamandra, 2012 on the Arab world; and Thiel-Stern, 2014 for the US.

71 Hall, 1976.

72 Sabry & Ftouni, 2016: 3.

73 El Khachab, 2017: 338.

74 Herzfeld notes that “National embarrassment can become the ironic basis of intimacy and affection, a fellowship of the flawed, within the private spaces of the national culture” (1997: 34).

75 El Sharkawy, 2020.

76 I am greatly indebted to the reviewers of this paper for their insightful comments and bibliographical advice. I also want to thank my co-editors (Clio Chaveneau and Frédéric Lagrange) and the participants of the Culture Made in Arabia conference (SUAD / NYUAD / CEFREPA, April 2021), as well as the participants of the Gulf, Gender, and Culture Workshop (convened by Saqer Almarri, NYUAD, March 2023) for their helpful suggestions and comments. While its faults are all mine, this paper owes a lot to them.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende Author unknown. Image that circulated on online forums, showing the shabbāṣa, the flower-shaped hair clip, and its voluminous effect under the veil. The text is a ḥadīth used to condemn the hairdo; see below.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Titre Fig. 2
Légende Author and date unknown; attributed to the mosque ‘Alī bin Abī Ṭālib in Medina (Saudi Arabia).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 175k
Titre Fig. 3.
Légende Author unknown. The ḥadīth is printed on top of the drawing, and some of its terms are used to label clothing practices judged morally wrong: “clothed yet naked” points to the high-heeled shoes and the dress fitted to the chest and bottom; “their heads like the humps of camels” to the hairdo and bangs; the make-up is depicted as belonging to the pre-Islamic period of ignorance (tabarruj al-jāhiliyya al-ʾūlā); and the cleavage and red nails are qualified of “adornment” (al-zīna).21
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 53k
Titre Fig. 4
Légende “Campaign against the ḥijāb bū nafkha’. Image published by the online forum “Qatar shares network” (date unknown). Before reiterating the ḥadīth, the text explains that the puffy ḥijāb “became a trend among teenage girls (al-murāhiqāt) and girls in general (al-fatayāt).”
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 73k
Titre Fig. 5.
Légende The husband-accessory, by Abdulaziz Yousef. Posted on Instagram (@temsa7comics), May 13, 2012.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 736k
Titre Fig. 6
Légende “The niqāb [face veil] before… and now” (from right to left), Adel Al Qallaf. Posted on Flickr on November 12, 2009.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-6.gif
Fichier image/gif, 47k
Titre Fig. 7
Légende “I didn’t know girls had a hump like us!” Adel Al Qallaf. Posted on Flickr on February 12, 2008.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-7.gif
Fichier image/gif, 38k
Titre Fig. 8
Légende Cartoon by Khaled Al Jabri. Re-posted on Twitter by the artist in 2013.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Fig. 9
Légende ‘Īd-kum Mubārak,” Author unidentified.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Titre Fig. 10
Légende Digital art by Ashgar Alreesh, representing one of the protagonists of Mars Attacks! Posted on Instagram on November 4, 2014 with the hashtag “gambūʿa.” One of the comments mentions: “I mean, we entered globalization through the gambūʿa.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 874k
Titre Fig. 11
Crédits “Evolution.” Author and date unknown. Reposted on Twitter and Reddit in 2012-2014.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 109k
Titre Fig. 12
Légende “Mickey Mouse – local version.” Originally posted on Twitter in July 2011 by the now-deleted parody account @OhMyLocal and retweeted by several users.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Fig. 13
Légende Tweet by the OMGamboo3a account, making use of Arabized English while referencing a global jewelry brand (“Is it a special edition with pink Swarovski?”).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-13.png
Fichier image/png, 105k
Titre Fig. 14
Légende “The best place for those who want to grill skewers,” Younis Al Balushi, posted on Twitter on September 26, 2015.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 87k
Titre Fig. 15
Crédits Image and tweet posted by the Twitter account OMGamboo3a in 2010.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-15.png
Fichier image/png, 238k
Titre Fig. 16
Légende “Blayboy.” Posted on 9GAG in 2011, Author unknown.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Titre Fig. 17
Légende Screenshots from Shaabiat al Cartoon, Episode 3, 2008.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cy/docannexe/image/11410/img-17.png
Fichier image/png, 302k
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Laure Assaf, « Girls’ Fashion and Khaleeji Pop Culture: The cultural fortunes of the gambūʿa, from hairdo to Internet meme », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 18 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2023, consulté le 17 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cy/11410 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cy.11410

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Laure Assaf

New York University Abu Dhabi

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