Podcasts are a well-established cultural staple across the world, but in the MENA region, the medium has only recently started gaining traction with a content-hungry generation.
Frequently relegated to the morning commute, podcasts — a word stemming from “iPod” and “broadcasting” — are an effective way to be informed and entertained in bite-sized chunks. But ever since the coronavirus pandemic forced the world to a halt, anytime can be podcast time.
Pre-recorded, free of charge, and downloadable, podcasts are available in all formats: Programs, debates, testimonies, documentaries, fiction, etc.
Whether you want to learn about politics, sociology, astrology, or any number of things, there is a podcast out there to teach you. According to April 2020 data from Podcast Insights, there are over 1,000,000 different podcasts worldwide.
All you need is a smartphone or internet access and there you have it, a whole other world at your fingertips.
Podcasts have undeniably become a genre of its own and are quickly gaining popularity in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon. This growing trend appears significant in a region that sometimes suffers from restrictions on freedom of expression and social taboos.
Dip your toes into the world of MENA region-based podcasts with these 10 options.
When Women Win
It is by telling the story of women who “do extraordinary things” that Rana Nawas made a name for herself in the podcast world.
“When Women Win” is a podcast where female role models from around the world share their inspirational stories and practical tools for personal and professional success.
This podcast has quickly gained popularity, reaching far beyond the borders of the United Arab Emirates, where it is based.
It has now become, according to Apple, “the most listened-to podcast in the Middle East” — even Emirates Airline is broadcasting Rana Nawas’ podcast on flights.
Another podcast star of the region is Omar Tom, a Sudanese man who hosts the “Dukkan Show” with two of his friends.
Its appeal? A very cool and relaxed vibe in which three friends welcome guests from different walks of life and chat as if they were meeting in a “dukkan” (grocery store in Arabic).
The platform “Sowt” (“voice” in English) was launched in Jordan in 2017. Since then, it has featured various podcasts that cover issues ranging from politics to music.
One of its flagship podcasts is “Eib,” Arabic for “shame.”
The program addresses subjects such as divorce, rape, sexuality, gender equality, and religion.
“Ilm FM” (“Science FM”) is hosted by Sari Sabban, an assistant professor of biology at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia.
The show aims to discuss science news in a way that is both fun and accessible to a general audience while encouraging Arab youth to enter the field of science.
Reda Allali, the lead of Moroccan rock group “Hoba Hoba Spirit,” launched “Radio Maarif” in 2016.
First dealing with topics related to national football, it quickly branched out to discuss cultural and historical issues.
Reda Allali invites experts to introduce defining moments of Moroccan history to a general audience, focusing on historical events overlooked by the official curriculum taught at Moroccan schools.
In her podcast “Tarab” on Binge Audio, Moroccan-French Leila Izrar dissects representations of Arab cultures in France.
Every other Friday, she questions what it means to be Arab in France, the struggles the Arab communities face in their daily lives, and the idea of integration, all in a very captivating and thought-provoking manner.
Since its launch in 2019, the podcast has enjoyed the support of the Arab World Institute.
Kerning Cultures Podcast
The “Kerning Cultures Podcast” brings to the forefront key figures in the Middle East and North Africa. It features the region’s artists, business leaders, cultural actors, etc.
The format is relaxed and interactive and you will surely be enthralled by the variety of topics discussed, from archeology to the latest film releases.
The Mstdfr Show
Born in Saudi Arabia, “the Mstdfr Show” is all about geek culture. Hosts Ammar Sabban and Rami Taibah chat with different guests about various topics around science, culture, tech, entertainment, and new generational challenges.
Launch on fire
Introduced in 2014, “Launch on Fire” is the first Arabic entrepreneurship podcast in Kuwait and the Middle East. Its host, Khalid el Zanki is a successful entrepreneur who shares real-life advice on marketing, innovative publicity campaigns, and business.
This podcast is on a mission to tell the stories of Arab migrants and refugees. “Blank Maps” deals with issues surrounding migration, identity, and statelessness. Topics often link closely to the Arab diaspora.