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Ringtones Rock Ramallah

West Bank gets second cell carrier, providing musical choices

Jesse Oxfeld
November 05, 2009
(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)
(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

After months of delay, Al-Watania, the West Bank’s second cell-phone carrier, began its operations this week, offering its customers the latest in telephone technology. And while the company’s customers won’t be able to pick up their new flip phones and call Israel—bureaucratic restrictions and mutual resentments make communications between the Jewish state and its Palestinian neighbor nearly impossible—they will be able to download ringtones of their favorite songs. The most popular option, by far, is “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” and a common phrase in Muslim prayer. It is followed closely by pop tunes from around the Arab world, such as the Egyptian singer Saad el Soughayar’s hit, “She Loves You, You Donkey.” Meanwhile, plagued by what it perceived as lack of cell phone etiquette, the Egyptian government took the unusual step of releasing a 16-point guide to properly using the popular technology. Among the document’s most pressing recommendations: “Don’t pick an annoying ringtone.”

Jesse Oxfeld, a former executive editor and publisher of Tablet Magazine, is a freelance theater critic. He was The New York Observer’s theater critic from 2009 to 2014.