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The Bleak Romance of Taḥliya Street *

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image of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

Popular culture in the oil-exporting countries of the Arabian Peninsula is often seen as being caught between religiosity and conspicuous consumption. Mosques and shopping malls populate stereotypical descriptions of modern cities in the region, from Mecca to Dubai and from Abu Dhabi to Riyadh. Yet popular culture cannot be reduced to theme parks and taped sermons, rollercoasters, and pilgrimages. This paper introduces a kasra, which is a popular musical form used by Saudi youth to voice their desires, dissatisfaction and protests. This particular song, entitled ‘At-Taḥliya’, draws its name from a famous avenue of the Saudi capital, and touches upon same-sex love, unemployment, and economic hardship. A detailed introduction is followed by the transliteration of the song and its English translation.

Affiliations: 1: a)NYU Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Email: ; 2: b) Princeton University, USA, Email:


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