Skip to main content

Social media and the Middle East: The women who are leading the way

Some of the key women online who are shaping the conversation in the region.
From left Zahra Lari, Huda Kattan, Linda Sarsour, Maria Alia, Nour El Sherbini, Dalal AlDoub (respective social media accounts)

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.

Social media has also amplified female voices, be it garnering worldwide support for women’s rights over Twitter or backing global campaigns such as #Women2Drive and #becauseweveread.

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.


Activists

Hoda Katebi

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.

Linda Sarsour

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.

Rana Abdelhamid

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.


Fashion

Shahd Batal

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

🐫💕

A post shared by Shahd Batal (@shahdbatal) on

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

So full of love, alhamdullilah 💕

A post shared by Shahd Batal (@shahdbatal) on

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.

Maria Alia

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hello, hi 👋 wearing @carolinaherrera and contemplating life #fashionawards

A post shared by MARIA ALIA (@mariaalia) on

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Definitely took Alabama winters for granted my whole life

A post shared by MARIA ALIA (@mariaalia) on

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.

Sena

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.

Leena

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.


Beauty

Dalal Al Doub

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

الشتاء الجميل ☃️ ☃️

A post shared by Dalal AlDoub 🕊 (@dalalid) on

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.

Huda Kattan

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.

Zukreat

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.


Travel

Haifa Beseisso

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.

Raha Moharrak

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

A post shared by Living Curiously (@rahamoharrak) on

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.

Sally

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.

Noha Sahnoune

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.

A post shared by Noha Sahnoune (@nohasahnoune) 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

Amal Bedhyefi

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

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.

Sara Salem

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Syllabus (finally) done. Can’t wait to teach all of this and more!

A post shared by Sara Salem (@radical_reading) on

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.

Sara Alfageeh

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.


Sport

Zahra Lari

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

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.


Food

Joudie Kalla

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.

Busra

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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...

A post shared by Büşra (@cafekakao) on

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.

Yasmin Khan

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.

Sarah

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

A post shared by Sarah (@whenapricotsbloom) on

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.


Public figures

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.  

Nancy Ajram

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.

Tawakkol Karman

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