Men of the Middle East

One of the most distinguishing features of Jordan that I’m sure will come to mind every time I remember my semester here is the shebab. This word in Arabic technically only means the plural of “young people,” but it is most often used with a bad connotation to describe a very certain type of Jordanian man. Just as how most guys on American college campuses dress in the same uniform of pastel shorts, white button downs, and neon sunglasses with the around-the-neck boat strap, Jordanian college students dress alike, as well. However, their uniform is perpetually stuck in the 80’s, making the UJ campus look like a film set for The Outsiders.

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The average sheb wears tight, faded jeans with embellishments on the pockets (and for my family reading this, think Marc’s jeans!), a tight black t-shirt, and a leather jacket in black, grey, or brown. While this could potentially be a classy outfit, the overall appearance is ruined as every sheb slicks back his hair with an exorbitant amount of hair gel and has facial hair groomed with lazer-like precision. Sheb are rarely seen alone, as they prefer to stand in groups and catcall women who pass. Although aggressive, they are defenseless due to the fact that their hands are always preoccupied by holding a cigarette, a cup of Turkish coffee, and an iPhone.

According to my professor, Rabia’a, the shebab are the dregs of society. Their rudeness often annoys her when they interrupt our class by opening the door in search of an empty room in which to relax. Rather than apologize and gently close the door, they normally scowl and slam the door, as if it was our fault we had class in the room.

The Educational Sciences building on campus is where we have most of our classes and it is also the building where the most fights break out – almost always between shebab who are fighting over a girl. The College of Educational Science is the college for students who can’t succeed in other majors but still want a college degree. Therefore, there are always shebab skipping class to relax in the hallways and smoke.

I wonder if foreign students studying abroad in America have the same amusement over the ridiculousness of US fraternity brothers. There are a striking number of similarities – most are concerned primarily with women and partying, they all dress incredibly similarly, their families are often well connected, and they all act in a mob mentality. Maybe the world isn’t so different, after all!


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