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Best of the blogs

A running series where we highlight new blogs as a guide to the Arabic blogosphere...

Week of May 28th


AndFarAway, is the blog of Roba Al Assi, a Jordanian woman of Palestinian origin. She has a degree in Fine Arts and Design and spends most of her spare time exploring new trends in the Arab world and outside it. I am quite pleased to have come across it because we have not yet covered any Jordanian blogs on Arab Awakening. Roba has it all covered, from the social conditions in Amman and Jordan to the latest trends in Arab Culture, Art, and Music. Reading through her blog has been truly enjoyable, it is up to date and feels very fresh. AndFarAway’s layout allows for easy navigation through the flow of Roba’s thoughts. Her writing style is easy to read and often witty, but what struck me most about it is the honesty that comes through. Roba writes extensively about the conditions women face in Jordanian society: and it doesn’t omit mention of countless rape cases and abuse. I highly recommend following Roba on twitter if you want to know more about what happens inside Jordan.

EXTRAMÜCADELE,established in 1997, a Turkish visual arts blog that represents all social groups in Turkey. It showcases photographs, forms, signs, and scripts from differing worlds seeking to be unified in one place. Its democratic essence is truly inspiring and is beautifully expressed. The look and feel of the blog is pleasing due its good flow and organisation. Most of the content is filled with visual imagery but you can search out some texts explaining the philosophy behind the blog. The texts are well written and easy to read and show the creativity that went into making such a visually stimulating site. What I would like to see the authors do is of course continue expanding the wonderful array of visual art on there but also add more reading material to explain the realities of life in Turkey, drawing a wider following.  It would also be nice to see a conversation going around the meaning of such art and its relationship to the Turkish political scene. But I encourage you to explore.    


Meedan, meaning ‘square’ in Arabic is a digital town square for conversation and discussion both in Arabic and English about everything from world affairs to culture and technology. The project is innovative, with original texts in English or Arabic translated by machine and edited by a human. With a large team of translators and contributors Meedan brings the world to this platform allowing people who visit to learn and practice both languages. The blog users are encouraged to have a go at translating a piece. You have to login to take part in the translation process but once you have done so the system is easy to use and is very well organised. Besides the bilingual news sharing the meedan community is involved in several media and educational projects, including one aimed at improving access to accurate and credible citizen reporting in the Arab world. This community has a highly talented and international core team of people working creatively as well as technically.

Week of April 16th

+972 is the dialling code for Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip. If you are looking for an alternative Israeli source for commentary and political analysis you have got to start reading +972mag. With Israeli and some Palestinian voices writing on current affairs, opinion and analysis, travel, and activism the blog covers many aspects of Israeli/Palestinian reality. The layout and design of +972mag is particularly impressive with all writers' faces animated and displayed on the left hand side giving the page a nice personal touch. My two favourite sub-sections are Life and Humour, with the latter showing the ridicules of political actions by those in power with some incredibly funny insertions by the authors of the blog. As for Life, I find it hugely important for anyone who is not from the region to grasp the intricacies of movement in the West Bank and Israel. Yuval Ben-Ami's Round trip posts are a highly recommended read if you want know more about the real landscape of the area. The writing is excellent and the styles vary, some are brilliantly sarcastic and others are incredibly witty. +972mag is a very popular source for a reason, it has a large following on twitter and is a keeper.

Mohamed Elshahed, a doctoral candidate researching Architecture and urban planning in Egypt, started this blog last April. On it's one year anniversary Arab Awakening delves into the archive of this fascinating blog. We have covered a few Egyptian blogs so far but this one really stands out. Cairobserver portrays Cairo as well as other parts of Egypt from different angles. With aerial views and a detailed map of the city you really begin to get a feel for Cairo. This blog poses serious infrastructure and urban planning questions that are aimed at starting the discussion about the city's life and urban fabric. Cairobserver has a very appealing look to it and is comfortable to navigate, with topical categories on the side bar. The content is original and showcases the amount of research Mohamed has put into his research and is sharing it through this blog. I have personally learnt a lot about the city and the pressing issues in Egypt's transition to democracy. The piece entitled ' The People Demand A Mayor For Cairo' is a great place to start before you explore the rest of the blog. Mohamed is active on twitter and regularly posts on Cairoobserver.


 Electronic Intifada (electronic uprising) is one of the only sources for independent reporting and commentary focusing on Palestine. It was established in 2001 and has been delivering high-quality news and analysis since. The blog is easily navigable and well organised. However, in terms of design it might be in need for a slight update that would increase it's aesthetic appeal in displaying the wealth of information on everything Palestinian. I was particularity drawn to the Art, Music & Culture section as it reveals activities and initiatives by Palestinians such as women empowerment through radio and the recent re-opening of Al-Quds Cinema in East Jerusalem. There is also a running diaries section with entries from a wide range of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Diaspora. The entries are quite personal describing daily life struggles and thoughts of Palestinians. EI is well known and has a large following of more than 20,000 on twitter. It is a good alternative source that sheds light on a community lacking real coverage. 

 

Week of April 2nd

As'ad Abu Khalil is a political scientist from Lebanon, he is based in the US and is one of the most active bloggers from the Arab World. Why Angry? Reading through As'ad posts and archive you see how critical - rightly so - he is with mainstream western media and Arab regimes. This blog is a good source for critical analysis on everything to do with the Middle East/North Africa, with particular reference to Lebanese and Syrian politics. Angry Arab has a wealth of information about the region in his blog, he posts comments very regularly and is a reliable independent source on current affairs in the region. His writing style is unique with regular insertion of sarcastic comments that make the read all the more appealing. The blog is easy to navigate and has an archive spanning a decade of political and cultural analysis. Angry Arab is organised and easily navigable, however, the layout and design of the blog need updating and could use a navigation bar at the top. I would recommend following As'ad on twitter as he is very active and provides necessary critique.

One of the most exciting projects in the Middle East and the Arab world, Art Territories provides a voice and platform for artists from the region. It is inspirational as well as crucial in facing the new realities emerging in the region. Ursula Biemann and Shuruq Harb launched the website in september 2010 and are dedicated to highlighting the influx of creation coming from the region. The collective write on art and visual culture in the context of the Middle East and Arab world and are revealing some of the most cutting edge initiatives currently in place. The site is pleasing to look at and the articles are easy to read making the navigation flow comfortable. This will not be the last time you here about his project from us at Arab Awakening as we will be introducing a series on Urban Space in the Middle East in cooperation with Dr Noam Leshem, so watch this space.

 

Ganzeer, an upcoming Egyptian visual artist has been using his art to communicate and convey a message about the severity of conditions in Egypt. I invite you to explore this blog and delve into the incredible archive of visual imaginary created by Ganzeer across the Egyptian capital. The visual art is accompanied with commentary in Arabic and English by the artist. Recently, Arab Awakening held a talk on emerging ways of expression in Egypt called 'Translating Egypt's Revolution: Understanding the language of Tahrir' as part of our series 'Tahrir Square as a Meme'. The talk was a preview to the book 'Translating Egypt's Revolution' by Laura Gribbon and Ganzeer features in it. The blog is easily navigable and has a useful category section on the right hand side.  This blog is a gateway to Ganzeer's world, through his website you can navigate to a few other blogs that the artist runs himself and to others where he is a contributor, all of which are a pleasure to explore.     

Week of March 5th

If you want to know more about what is happening in Egypt from an independent source you should always consider 3arabawy. Hossam El-Hamalawy is one of the most prominent bloggers in the Egyptian blogosphere. He has followed the revolution since the first outburst and has been posting on Egyptian current affairs, civil rights, culture, art and music since 2006. Hossam's passion for Egypt is clear: 3arabawy is easy to navigate and is highly interactive with video and audio material and a wide range of articles in both English and Arabic.  I would highly recommend going through 3arabawy's rich archive, especially pre-revolution in order to get a grip on the accumulative nature of the Egyptian revolution. He has actively followed the regime's corruption and human rights abuses and is very familiar with the in and outs of the Egyptian system. What is most appealing to me in Hossam's blog is the constant insertion of interesting photography and videos, some of which are of himself explaining his take on what’s going on. His writing style in English and Arabic is very direct and to the point and he posts on a regular basis. He is highly active on twitter and has a large following.


Afrah Nasser is a Yemeni writer and journalist. She has been blogging since January 2010 and followed the Yemeni revolution very closely until it was too dangerous for her to stay in Yemen. Afrah focuses on the political and social aspects of life in Yemen and has been a fierce critic of the Saleh regime since she started blogging. While reading an interview with her it became clear that being a female blogger and a critique of the regime has made her life difficult. She explains that when she writes on feminist topics in Yemen she is met with aggression from most Yemeni men, part of the reason she resides in Sweden at the moment. Her blog has an appealing look to it, however, I found it slightly difficult to navigate and think it would benefit from a navigation bar at the top. Also scrolling down the many articles in Arabic and English it would be quite useful to have an archive on the front page. I have enjoyed reading a lot of Afrah’s posts: her writing style is very accessible and easy to read. She has my full admiration for being at the forefront of the Yemeni social and political struggle, raising issues that many shy away from. Afrah is very active on twitter and has a large following.

Mohamed El Dahshan is an Egyptian economic consultant and journalist that writes on everything from the economy and current affairs to culture and travel. I have really enjoyed exploring this blog, it felt really fresh instantly. Mohamed has another website he writes in more often now and plans to incorporate the old blog into his new and improved one. His new blog in terms of layout and design is a lot more appealing and easier to navigate. However, the content of both is fresh and analytic at the same time. Mohamed's writing style is concise and logical. Some of his articles are quite interactive showing what he feels it important to discuss. His older blog with posts dating back to 2005 is fascinating and gives a take on the world through Mohamed's Egyptian eyes. What I love about this blog is the interest shown in infinite variety. No topic is a no go for Mohamed and he provides a good read on all. He encourages commentary and is quite active on twitter. The Traveller within is definitely recommended.

Week of February 6th

The Arab Street located on the Council of Foreign Relations website would appear to be another high collared take on Middle East politics. Yet Ed Husain, a Senior Fellow at CFR, has developed his blog into one of the most insightful sources for analysis on what is happening in the region. Whether it's warning about the threat of intervention in Syria or exploring the power of American influence in Egypt, Husain does not pull punches. His posts are well thought out, clear, concise and surprisingly engaging. To top it off, Husain does not shy away from engaging with his readers, whether on twitter or directly on his blog, The Arab Street is an open and unique source. Unfortunately, the blog is currently only published in English, but for those students or readers looking for an accessible source for fresh analysis, this is the blog for you. 

Arabs Think, the revolutions of the past year have been the domain of young people and thus it is perhaps fitting that on Arabs Think the students have become the teachers. Launched by students who specialize in different aspects of Middle East politics, the blog offers comprehensive analyses and synopses of the most pressing issues. With 185 millions Arabs under the age of 30, the Arabs Think team has cultivated a network of exclusive young sources which keep them in touch with real time developments. Whether it is the workers strike in Algeria or the dangerous situation in Syria, they have consistently been ahead of the curve, and they deserve more recognition than they currently receive. Publishing in both French and English, their coverage of the North African revolutions has been especially strong and it is worth reading through their archives to see what you may have missed.

Week of January 23rd

The Moor Next Door (TMND) blog should be the top destination for anyone seeking a sophisticated understanding of Maghrebian politics. While its posts cover all of North Africa, TMND offers unsurpassed analyses of Algerian and Mauritanian affairs. An intimate knowledge of the region, its history, and underlying dynamics secures depth for its articles, and occasionally a series on the same topic provokes a fascinating, extended discussion. The author follows the geopolitics of the region closely, never failing to offer a rich background to the stories making the headlines. With its writing blending a nice casual style with academic rigour, TMND also attracts a large number of visitors who have valuable comments to make. This blog may well be unique as an English language resource about a region usually viewed as mostly Francophone. 


The Big Pharaoh is an anonymous Egyptian activist that has been blogging since 2004, under his witty sphinx logo, once seen never forgotten. The blog is on everything Egyptian but on Middle Eastern/North African current affairs as well. The writing and critique is amongst the sharpest in the Arab blogosphere and shows real knowledge of the history of Egypt and the region as a whole. The reflection and analysis this blog poses is food for thought. The most recent post entitled 'Islam Needs Another Revolution' is a great piece on the history of Egyptian and Islamic critical thought. It is brief but to the point, illuminating the history of some of Egypt's most prominent thinkers. The author insists that Egyptians can veer away from extremist ideals, and remember what is good in the rich legacy of their thinkers. The blog is not easy to navigate and could use an update with a more pleasant layout. But it has many useful links and a long archive to delve into. I am excited about following this blog from now on and look forward to the next post. The Big Pharaoh is responsive and very active on twitter and has a large following.


Shabab Libya is an excellent source focused on Libyan current affairs. Established just before the Libyan revolution it has covered every event since then and much more. It is an impressively designed website, very well organised and pleasant to navigate. Due to it's easy accessibility I found myself exploring a world of information on Libya in the different categories. The writing is easy to read and I found the forum section particularly addictive. People share their thoughts on everything from high culture to everyday shopping. I was most impressed by the amount of interactive material on the website. In the media section you can find music videos, photos documenting the revolution and short documentary clips. Help, I can see myself spending hours on there. Personally, I would like to see this brilliant website post more opinion/editorial articles because everything else about it is almost too good to be true. The website is also available in Arabic. The Libyan Youth Movement are very active on twitter and Facebook and have many followers.

2011 Best of the blogs selections

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