Social media and the Middle East: The women who are leading the way
The Middle East has not been immune to the rise of the social media influencer. In 2017, Instagram alone revealed that it had 63 million users in the MENA region - equivalent to 10 percent of the platform’s global community.
Such platforms have given women in the region the ability to connect with potentially billions of people across the world, creating communities and linking up followers and organisations, fans and brands.
There are a lot of social media accounts out there. The list below is but a snapshot of the key influencers, be they established or just starting out, from across the region: the trend-setters, promoters and content creators who have made a name and shape the agenda.
Who have we left off? Continue the conversation through our accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Iran soon, inshAllah 🙏🏽🌠 Working on a piece about the "Iranian hijab issue" right now and I can't wait for you to read it! In the meantime, wishing my fellow Shias a safe and blessed Arbaeen. I'll be in Boston this weekend to join a dope panel on intersectional feminism at the Berklee College of Music, slide through if you're in town! Photo via @alex_shams because he's making me both homesick for Iran and wanting to go to Karbala, Iraq even more. #comebackpls
Instagram: @hodakatebi Posts: 917 Followers: 57.4k Following: 997
Katebi’s blog, which promotes sustainable and ethical fashion, as well as minimalist consumption, aims to challenge the Orientalist media representation of Middle-Eastern and Muslim women. The Iranian influencer also started a campaign under #becauseweveread, an international online book club that furthers understanding of the world.
Instagram: @lsarsour Posts: 2004 Followers: 134k Following: 786
Sarsour, who is Palestinian American, is on the front lines of social media, fighting for racial justice, civil rights and shattering stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. She co-chaired the March2Justice, a 250-mile journey on foot to deliver a justice package to end racial profiling, demilitarise police and demand the government invest in young people and communities.
Instagram: @rabdelhamed Posts: 1,363 Followers: 8,283 Following: 1,577
Abdelhamid, who is Egyptian, campaigns online for women’s rights and the Arab Spring. She’s also the person behind ‘Hijabis of New York’, which captures stories of Muslim women in New York and around the world; and founded ‘Malikah’, a grassroots movement that connects and empowers women, training them in self-defence, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and organisation.
Instagram: @shahdbatal Posts: 478 Followers: 270k Following: 389
Batal is known for her edgy style and YouTube videos where she shows viewers how to style key pieces in their wardrobes, including her Outfits of the Week segment. Meanwhile her ‘haul’ videos give audiences ideas on where to shop and how to style. Batal, who is Sudanese, also tackles issues including loneliness and body positivity and has started her own movement called #BuyYourselfFlowers to promote self love.
Instagram: @mariaalia Posts: 1,382 Followers: 409k Following: 1,158
Alia’s page is a go-to for elegant looks mixed with high fashion. The Palestinian-Puerto Rican is a frequent attendee at New York fashion week and has worked with brands such as Dior, L’oreal and H&M. She often incorporates elements of her Palestinian heritage into her looks.
Instagram: @senaseveer Posts: 863 Followers: 698k Following: 897
This Istanbul-based blogger regularly posts her outfits online with a style that is modest, modern and well assembled. Her account is a good destination for inspiration about using trend pieces in an effortless and timeless way.
Instagram: @withloveleena Posts:1,310 Followers: 685k Following: 554
Leena, who is Palestinian, practices as a nurse for her day-to-day job but a quick glance at her Instagram or YouTube page would have you mistake her for a full-time model. Her page features modest fashion inspiration and recommendations for where to shop.
Dalal Al Doub
Instagram: @Dalalid Posts: 4,016 Followers: 2.4m Following: 1,041
This Kuwaiti blogger has good recommendations on makeup products and techniques, as well as those to avoid. There is also a focus on day to night and natural looks.
One of my favorite shots from the @globalgiftfoundation Gala 💗💗 I loved being a part of this night, hearing all the heartfelt stories & being able to help! Thank you so much @evalongoria @mariarbravo & the @globalgiftfoundation for giving so many people the opportunity to help others. There is no greater feeling than that and it makes all our hard work worth it! 🙏🏽
Instagram: @Hudabeauty Posts: 13,903 Followers: 31.8m Following: 466
Is it really an influencer list if Kattan is not on it? A self-made Iraqi businesswoman and entrepreneur, she is the daughter of Iraqi immigrants who settled in Oklahoma, but now resides in Dubai. She started blogging about beauty products, how-to’s and affordable recommendations: now, she’s the owner of a beauty empire and ranks at number 37 on Forbes’ 2018 list of richest self-made women, estimating her worth at $550m. Her ‘Huda Beauty’ products are sold by, among others, Harrods, Selfridges and Sephora, and she’s just launched a fragrance line with her sister Kayali.
Be a #bosslady and start your makeup career in 2019 & enrol in my @artistofmakeup #academy 5 Day Intensive Makeup/ Makeup & Hair training course run in our WEST LONDON HQ, direct link is in my bio to secure your place, with a £100 redeemable deposit, rest of course fee payable before start of course date. Course includes full Makeup kit worth over £1000 & personal full day Asiana style portfolio shoot, teaching you all my makeup tricks and full Arabic Bridal, Asian Bridal & Mehndi Makeup Looks, Check the link for more info. Time to take ownership of your life and do what you truly love as a career 😘 💄👊🏼
Instagram: @zukreat Posts: 3,353 Followers: 600k Following: 2,363
This British-based Iraqi beauty mogul is the CEO and founder of her own makeup brand, Artist of Makeup. Zukreat initially worked as a freelance makeup artist, regularly posting on Instagram and creating a YouTube channel. She has since work with several celebrities, including Khloe Kardashian.
Instagram: @flywithhaifa Posts: 2,801 Followers: 371k Following: 839
A quick scroll through Beseisso’s Instagram page or videos reveals her exploits from South Africa to Japan and India. She also went viral for a video where she “got married to life”, where the Palestinian pledged to live each day to the fullest, encouraging others not to be pressured by society's expectations of settling down.
In this second part of my eagle hunting lesson, I got to pick up the eagle again. Nothing prepares you for being so close to such a beautiful animal. Her wingspan is my height and I could see and feel her majesty in each movement and every line of her body. I’m unbelievably fortunate to ride these rolling hills with a true eagle hunter! In the evening, the ladies tried to show me how to make a traditional dish. I have zero talents in the kitchen, and it was a disaster, but we all had fun. It amazes me how simple things like cooking or playing with children always brings people together, regardless of where they’re from. I will forever cherish this day. This trip was organised by @chiryazdan #shotoniphone #mongolia #travel #explore #naturalhair #worldnomad
Instagram: @rahamoharrak Posts: 757 Followers: 59.8k Following: 800
Moharrak came to attention as the first Saudi woman to conquer Mount Everest in 2013 and now regularly shares her travels and reflections. She gives advice to her followers on climbing and encourages them to learn about the history and culture of the places they travel to. She has also become the first Middle Eastern brand ambassador for the luxury brand Tag Heuer.
Dancing into the new year like 💃🏽 For those of you on the other side of the world, Happy New Year! For those in my hemisphere, our New Year's Eve is just beginning. Either way, I hope 2019 is everyone's best year yet! Let me know in the comments what your goals are for the coming year (travel or otherwise) and share what you're doing to celebrate tonight! 🎉 PS there's a special reason I posted a photo of Sudan. Peep my stories to learn why! 🇸🇩✊🏼
Instagram: @passportandplates Posts: 474 Followers: 30.6k Following: 952
Sally’s blog and Instagram are good for travel guides, where to eat and what to do. As well as sharing her photos, the Egyptian-Sudanese uses her platform to show a side to the Middle East seldom depicted in wider media.
2019 is all the energy for turtlenecks, ethical style, clean eating, and getting away from Netflix (...after we finish Ertugrul). I’ve never been one to take breaks for extended periods of time; this has been the longest period since I was 17 that I haven’t been waking up and going to school or work, coming home in the evenings. It’s different in ways both good and challenging, but I’m grateful in the sense that it’s given me the bandwidth to write, photograph, explore, and meet some pretty damn incredible people I otherwise may not have run into. 🙏🏻 I’m excited to get back into my blog — can’t wait for you to see what’s been going on.
Instagram: nohasahnoune Posts: 414 Followers: 48k Following: 424
This Algerian-American-Canadian hybrid shares her travels, life, outfits and reflections on her Instagram and blog. Sahnoune’s account is conversational, relaxed and aesthetically pleasing, including landscapes, travels and cafes.
Arts and literature
"She is, above all else, tired; she wants more than anything to return to her bed and her book. The world, this world, feels suddenly stunned and stunted, far from everything." Michael Cunningham. #books #book #igreads #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #livres #bookshelf #booklover #fiction #nonfiction #bookstore #youngadult #johngreen #lecture #librairie
Instagram: @amal.books Posts: 1,099 Followers: 32.2k Following: 742
This Tunisian student studying English regularly shares snippets of the books she’s currently reading, including quotes that resonate with her, short reviews and the interiors of libraries and bookstores. Her page offers a range of recommended reads, majoring on feminism, race and fiction.
Tasneem al Sultan
“Even though I give him a daily allowance of 40 Saudi Riyals ($10) my son does not support my work. Having been brought up in a household where my brother would beat me if I ever left the house, I had always hoped I would find a supportive husband. Now I have a 24 year old son who is worse than my brother ever was.” Kadhra, a 50-year-old Saudi has an ill husband and is the main provider for the family. She weaves baskets from recycled plastic and sells them in Jeddah. #jeddah #saudiarabia #women #tasneemalsultan
Instagram: @tasneemalsultan Posts: 503 Followers: 146k Following: 598
This Saudi photographer captures stories from around the Middle East, from the pyramids in Egypt to inside a traditional Saudi wedding and Oman on Eid. Her work has been published by the National Geographic among many others.
Instagram: @radical_reading Posts: 254 Followers: 1,466 Following: 339
Both an avid book reader and a lecturer at the London School of Economics, Salem, who is Dutch-Egyptian, focuses on books about post colonialism, feminism and race. Her following has gradually built through her sharing of thoughts, quotes and key takeaways from the books she recommends.
Twitter: @TheFoofinator Tweets:10.6K Followers: 33K Following: 1,588
Alfageeh, a Jordanian-American illustrator and creative director, has a colourful feed of her work, where she challenges traditional narratives by placing non-conventional characters in the role of the protagonist.
I will be supporting UAE National Football Team this Tuesday during AFC Asian Cup semi finals! Hope to see you all at the stadium. Let’s go! بكون متواجده لتشجيع منتخبنا لكرة القدم يوم الثلاثاء المشارك في كأس آسيا واتمنى كل اماراتي وكل مقيم على ارضنا الحبيبة "دولة الامارات العربية المتحدة" يكون متواجد ويدعم منتخبنا #afcasiancup2019 #bringingasiatogether #afc #football @afcasiancup @etisalat #etisalat #قدام_يالأبيض
Instagram: @zahralari Posts: 1,369 Followers: 21.2k Following: 1,330
Lari is the first figure skater from the UAE to compete internationally, and also to do so while wearing a hijab. Inspired to compete after watching a Disney movie, she motivates her followers by sharing photos and videos in her determination to break the stereotypes that women and sports don’t mix.
Asma El Badawi
Part 2 of the can I see your hair? shenanigans I hate to break it to you.... but my 🏀 seen me without my hijab and didn’t need to put no💍 ring on it 😂😂😂😂 Shoutout to @karen_mandau for capturing this multitasking moment ———————————————————————————————- #harampolice #boybye #basketball #photography #sportphotography #hijab #summertime #smiles #ballislife #lifestyle #ifyoulikeitthenyoushouldaputaringonit
Instagram: @asmaelbadawi Posts: 258 Followers:7,335 Following: 963
A basketball player, spoken word poet and motivational speaker, there’s not much Asma can’t do. She’s successfully lobbied the international basketball association FIBA to remove a ban on hijabs and religious headwear in professional sport, and has written poetry about being a female Muslim basketball player. On her Instagram page she proudly features her Sudani culture and heritage, while also advocating for women in sport.
Nour El Sherbini
Instagram: @noursherbini Posts: 546 Followers: 147k Following: 444
This Egyptian professional squash player won the title of youngest ever World Junior Champion aged just 13. In 2016 she took the PSA Player of the Year award and she’s also made history after being crowned champion at the 2018 British Open. Her Instagram page features motivating photos of her on tour and at games.
Instagram: @palestineonaplate Posts: 1,460 Followers: 100k Following: 2,379
The bestselling author has published two books on Palestinian food, which also explore the relationship between food and identity and memories from her mother’s kitchen. Her page celebrates authentic (and sometimes experimental) Palestinian cuisine and provides insight into traditional and vibrant cooking methods.
Basit bir tatlı enn iştah çekici nasıl yapılır ? Misafirine verdiğin değeri özeni nasıl gösterirsin? Hoş sohbetin tadı hangi tatlıda var ? Can dostun tokluğu hangi lokmada var? :) Güler yüzlerin, ruhumu doyurmasına vesile oldun ya yalancı tiramisu ... Malzemeler Kedi dili🙈 12 tane 3’ü bir arada paket kahve ... Yarım tatlı kaşığı türk kahvesi 1 bardak soğuk süt Toplam 4 adet yalancı kavanoz tiramisu oluyor...:) Muhallebisi için, 3 su bardağı süt 2 adet yumurta sarısı 6 yemek kaşığı şeker 3 yemek kaşığı un 1 paket labne peyniri (180 gr) 1 çorba kaşığı tereyağ Tereyağ ve labne peyniri hariç bütün malzemeyi temcereye alın. Kıvam alana kadar karıştırarak pişirin. Kıvam aldıktan sonra ocağı kapatın labne peyniri ve tereyağını ekleyerek karıştırın. Su bardağında kahveyi ve sütü güzelce karıştırın. Pütürlükler olursa süzebilirsiniz. Kedidillerinin hepsini ortadan ikiye kesin. Kahveye kedidilini hemen batırıp çıkarın ve kavanozun tabanlarına bir tane yerleştirin. Sonra yanlarına aynı şekilde yerleştirin biraz muhallebi ekleyin. Ortasına son kalan kedidillerini ekleyin ve tekrar muhallebi ekleyerek en üstü tatlı kaşığının arkası ile düzenleyin. Bu kadar 🤷🏻♀️ En üste servis yapacağınız zaman kakao serpiştirin. Daha önce yapmanız kakaonun erimesine sebep olacak...
Instagram: @cafekakao Posts: 573 Followers: 54.1k Following: 601
This Turkish food blogger shares recipes and how-to advice on food from the region, with a definite emphasis on the sweet-toothed and sugary.
Instagram: @yasminkhanstories Posts: 1,187 Followers: 14.5k Following: 823
Khan is an author and campaigner who challenges stereotypes through her cooking. Her photos are full of colour and character, depicting the most aromatic and enticing foods from the Middle East. On her website you can find everything from the classic favourites such as the walnut Baklava, to slightly more experimental recipes like date and cinnamon omelette.
Today, my mama and I, along with other family and friends visited the home of @nadianafa and @suzaneabdul and we made mana’eesh together. I can’t describe how much love and patience Khalto Nadia puts into her cooking — you can absolutely taste it in every flavorful bite. ✨ I’m so blessed to be a part of a community with such incredible women who are willing to share their recipes with me. Thank you, Khalto Nadia and Suzanne. ❤️ . . . . . . #foodie #buzzfeast #buzzfeed #feedfeed #f52grams #organic #fresh #cravings #halal #gloobyfood #tastemade #yahoofood #nytfood #thekitchn #huffposttaste #foodwine #organic #vegetarian #vegan #pomegranate #middleeast #palestinian #palestinian #arab #mana’eesh #salad #saveurmag #honestcooking
Instagram: @whenapricotsbloom Posts: 99 Followers: 6,807 Following: 973
Sarah’s recipes transcend her Palestinian roots, with her website boasting numerous how-to’s on all of the regions favourite dishes. Her photography of dinners, desserts and snacks should inspire even the least culinary-gifted among us.
Queen Rania of Jordan
Instagram: @queenrania Posts: 1,000 Followers: 5m Following: 2
Queen Rania of Jordan is a favourite among Instagrammers not only for her elegant fashion sense, but also for the insight into her charity work and duties as a royal. Updates on her page include her speeches at the Social Media Influencers Summit, meeting with world leaders in Tokyo and green activities with youth groups in Jordan.
Instagram: @nancyajram Posts: 3,360 Followers: 18.9m Following: 46
Lebanese star Nancy Ajram is a best selling artist, a judge on MBC’s The Voice and a fashion icon. She keeps fans updated about her music work, as well as brands and projects for which she is an ambassador.
Twitter: @Tawakkol Karman Tweets: 11.5k Followers: 1.05m Following: 510
Karman, who is sometimes known as the "iron woman" and the “mother of the revolution”, founded ‘women journalists without chains’, an organisation that promotes civil rights. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of her work in non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work in Yemen