DEAD SEA, JORDAN – After successfully launching her own YouTube channel last year with the mission of combating stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims, Jordan’s fashionable and photogenic Queen Rania has taken social media to the next step by opening her own Twitter account. She created it last week, on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Jordan, and already has more than 50,000 followers – not a bad crowd, even by Internet standards. (Al Gore has more than 800,000.)
Her "tweets" so far blend inspirational messages with personal-ish updates on life in the royal palace – full of little details about the king’s taste in films (action, obviously) and the challenges of getting the royal children to dress up to meet the pope. Saturday, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) – in which Middle Eastern countries defended the same free market orthodoxy that many in the West are now questioning – the queen gave her first Twitter interview. She answered questions submitted to the WEF blog via twitter and voted for on online; five were selected for the queen to answer.
The channel has drawn a big positive response from many Jordanians, and loyal fans of the queen’s YouTube channel.
“we r being hypnotized by Queen Rania...she z so cool.. we luv her,” tweets @RulaMughrabi. But it hasn’t been without controversy, of course.
A final irony: Jordanian mobile phone companies still don’t support Twitter, so while you can read the messages online, it’s impossible to send or receive updates from your phone. A Jordanian company has started a similar service, called WatWet (Arabic for “whispers,”) which works in Arabic and English, and is supported by regional mobile phone giant Zain.
The Queen wasn't the only one to be liveblogging the WEF this past weekend: 20 young Arab activists from the Global Changemakers network were liveblogging the proceeding using WatWet and the Jordanian citizen journalism website 7iber.com, and they’ve offered some distinctly different points of view:
“i just figured while politicians cnt solve anythng, its mainly because they meet in halls like these! Maybe the shiny marble decieve them into thnkng evrythn is as shiny.”