A beautiful woman wearing a turban. She has tattoos on her hands.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the Middle East, tattoos are considered forbidden. But that doesn’t stop 30-year-old Hazim Naouri from giving them. Naouri is the owner of Huzz Ink, a popular tattoo parlor in Jordan. For him, tattoos are more than just skin deep.

“My goal is to give the chance to people to express themselves on their skin,” Naouri told CNN.

It sounds simple enough, but due to the country’s religious influences, tattoos are still considered highly taboo. And it’s not just Islam that looks down on the practice, either. Judeo-Christian traditions also forbid it, as it is seen as marking the “holy temple” of one’s soul.

Texana Mubaidin, assistant manager of Huzz Ink, says that she feels displaced because of her tattoos. Mubaidin has a half-sleeve tattoo that extends up her right arm. She says that because of her tattoos, most people wouldn’t think she was from Jordan.

But times are changing and Naouri claims that a lot more people—particularly young people—are getting tattoos.

“Nowadays it’s being accepted more and more because of TV and the way people see it as art,” Naouri explained.

Since the practice itself is not illegal, an increasing amount of people are beginning to break the social norm. And it’s not just men who are getting tattoos, either. Naouri reports that he has just as many female clients as he does males.

Part of the reason that tattoos are becoming more acceptable is due to a new photo-documentary series by Jordanian photographer Bashar Alaeddin. The series, called “Arab Ink,” shows the relationship between culture, art, and self-expression.

“We are Arabs at the end of the day,” Naouri said.

And so Naouri keeps his business running in the hopes that someday, people will change their views on tattoos. It’s certainly possible given that at one point in the U.S., tattoos weren’t socially acceptable, either.