The New York Times reports on the growing popularity of the zebibah in Egypt, a dark circle of calloused skin on the forehead. Placement of the circle is where the forehead touches the prayer rug in daily ritual. While Egypt in the twentieth century was a leader of pan-Arab secular nationalism, now Egyptian men are taking to wearing the zebibah as a counterpart to women's wearing the hijab, a scarf covering hair and ears.
The NYT reporter compares this facial mark, and rumors that it can be created without prayer, to how workaholic Americans proudly wore dark lines under their eyes as evidence of long work hours and little sleep. In this time of United States primary campaigns, a more apt comparison might be to the repetitive invocations of Christianity by all major candidates, a display of religiosity that would surprise those in other advanced economies and many emerging ones.
What forms could physical and persistent piety take in mobile and digital technologies? Could a telephone exterior mirror its owners' skin? Could a text message conjure identity and community with recognizable codes?