The Syria crisis has been extremely difficult to monitor given the dangers involved in reporting from there and the relative lack of reliable, on-the-ground information. The Damascus Bureau, a collective of Syrian reporters and contributors filing first-hand accounts of the ongoing chaos, helps to clear up the picture.
This blog, which looks at politics as well as culture and architecture, is written and edited by a Lebanese team. Karl Sharro, who writes the blog, is an architect based in London, and Lama Bashour, who edits the blog, lives in Lebanon. Browse the entries for commentary on current affairs, links to relevant media clips and laughs interspersed throughout, like The Arab Dictator Halloween Style Guide with “a handy rating system for glamour and difficulty levels” from this time last year.
When Ahfrah Nasser describes herself as “a young Yemeni women who was born to write,” she may be being overly modest. Nasser is one of the sole voices for Yemeni women in English and her blog features interviews and conversations with like-minded individuals from across the globe. Her YouTube round ups are not to be missed.
March Lynch, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, began this Middle East politics blog under the pseudonym Abu Aardvark in 2002 before starting to write under his own name three years later. The site offers a deeply informed and perceptive look at Middle Eastern media and politics, with posts combining news, analysis, and personal reactions.
Mahir Zeynalov’s blog is a Turkish reporter for Today's Zaman newspaper based in Istanbul, Turkey. He regularly posts analysis based on his own reporting. Zeynalov is one of the few Turkish bloggers writing in English.
Wael Abbas, one of the many Egyptian bloggers who shot to fame during the Jan. 25 revolution, offers his daily take on the most engaging and illuminating stories from across the region. With aggregation including traditional media, blogs, NGO sites, tweets, videos, memes and more, Abbas' newsletter is an eclectic and diverse snapshot of Middle East news.
Mahmoud Salem has had a whirlwind two years. Beaten violently by police during Egypt’s Jan. 25 revolution, Salem — whose nom de plume is Sandmonkey — abandoned his blogging anonymity to become one of the country’s leading satirical writers. He also ran for parliament.
Run by a collective of Moroccan activists and dissidents, Mamfakinch focuses on the rarely covered movements seeking greater freedom and democracy in the North African state. Its trilingual coverage focuses on police abuse, security forces’ power and the activities of fledgling subversive political groups.
Issandr al-Amrani’s blog is one of the premier clearing houses for information on Egypt and North Africa, although its coverage extends well beyond the southern Mediterranean. The Arabist’s focus on accuracy and balance sets it apart as a regional resource for hard news and analysis. Amrani’s daily “article links” posting is required reading.
Veteran investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss writes this blog for The Nation magazine, focusing on the Middle East and Washington’s relation to it. Dreyfuss’ experience in regional issues gives him special insight into foreign policy missteps of the US government.
For 10 years, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole has written this blog dealing with Middle East politics and security. His knowledge of the region’s languages (he speaks and reads Farsi and Arabic), culture, history and politics has allowed him to write one of the few US-based blogs that is relevant to academics, journalists and thinkers in the region. Contributions from Cole’s list of leading experts, in addition to featured excerpts from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, are particularly illuminating.
Amira al-Hussaini, Global Voice’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, is not just an excellent blogger — she also harnesses the regional online community to help aggregate some of the best content produced by Middle East writers. If you’ve only got time each day to read one MENA feed, Hussaini’s is a good place to start.
Joshua Landis was writing his blog on Syria way before the uprising began in early 2011, but has maintained his astute coverage of a country whose developments are nearly impossible to accurately monitor. Landis, together with his Syrian-American guest contributor, Ehsani, offers thoughtful analysis on all things Syria, with a healthy dose of on-the-ground anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Daily briefing postings are long, but they remain the most accessible way of following the twists and turns of the Syria crisis.
Like many Lebanese academics and critics, Elias Muhanna no longer lives in Lebanon. Combining the perspective of the outsider with the contacts of the insider, Muhanna, now an assistant professor of comparative literature at Brown University, where he teaches courses on classical Arabic literature and Islamic intellectual history, he provides thoughtful commentary and insight on Lebanon and Syria.
Another Lebanese expatriate, Mustapha Hamoui offers balanced perspectives — written in layman’s terms — on the often head-spinning world of Beirut politics. Hamoui also specializes in withering critiques of law- and decision- makers in Lebanon and, as is necessary when covering political affairs in the country, he has a keen sense of irony.
Mother-of-three Emman al-Nafjan was so fed up with the marginalization of women in Saudi Arabia that she decided to dedicate her spare time to writing about it. Nafjan specializes in dispelling orthodox Saudi views towards women, dedicating regular posts to fellow equality seekers.
The much-celebrated Saudi blog of Columbia journalism graduate and former NPR producer Ahmed Al-Omran. It’s long been the go-to site for those interested in the Kingdom’s burgeoning reform movements. Omran’s is a rare voice, in English, detailing the myriad failures of his homeland to implement greater civic freedoms and rights. His command of the blogosphere makes the site a useful resource for monitoring news, culture and amusement in the region and, when they happen, remotely monitoring Saudi protests.
Administered by two Palo Alto graduates, Payvand — meaning “joining together” — offers an alternative to traditional media slants on Iranian coverage. Ignore the design and usability issues; this blog is all things to all Iran watchers, being both a comprehensive news aggregator and a great source of informed and original analysis.
Although the region is known as the Middle East and North Africa, coverage of the MENA area has always tended towards the former, leaving countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania sometimes entirely unexplored. The Moor Next Door single-handedly goes helps fix that balance. Taking an academic and policy-driven approach to Maghreb issues, TMND manages to source and include articles, papers and studies from remotest obscurity to help advance the reader’s understanding of a region rarely considered in conversations on the Middle East.
Excellent on-the-ground reporting and analysis from a collective of bloggers, journalists and photographers who provide thoughtful and insightful coverage of Israel and Palestine (a rarity in itself). Its “Voices” section, especially, is well informed and thought-provoking.
Bridging the gap between activism and journalism concerning the Palestinian cause, Electronic Intifada is run by a team of young, informed and indignant contributors who never fail to level withering critiques of injustice done to Palestinians in the occupied territories and beyond. The sites investigations are thorough and authoritative, as is its monitoring of social media from Washington to Tel Aviv.
A website dedicated to fomenting critical thought and dispelling lazy stereotyping or journalese of Islam among Western audiences. Tabsir’s contributors are an eclectic bunch, and you’ll just as likely come across a post on Yemen running out of bananas as you will an excerpt from a 17th Century travelogue of the region. Its analyses on political trends concerning the West’s view of Islam are particularly worth a read.
As global media focusses on the post-uprising Arab world, poet and author Mona Kareem dedicates her blog to covering fledgling pro-democracy movements in Gulf nations, where monarchic rule is still the norm. Kareem writes extensively on under-represented communities and the hypocrisy of Gulf regimes calling for freedom elsewhere while stifling it at home.
Razan Ghazawi and Rima Marrouch are two Syrian freelance journalists who have teamed up to create Writing on Syrian Walls, a blog that aims to redress the balance of coverage from what is reporting from inside Syria, and that which is disseminated outside of it. The two reporters complement each other’ with their coverage, both bringing an effective mix of color and personal experience to their dispatches.
An excellent resource for all things jihad, Jihadica provides regular updates on militant Sunni Islamist activities at a time when global attention is once again focusing on the rise of violent extremism in the Middle East. The site’s expert contributors also offer good insight into the religious minutiae of jihad.
There has perhaps never been a better time to get acquainted with Uskowi in
Iran. The blog on Iranian security and political affairs is administrated by Iran
experts Nader Uskowi and Mark Pyruz and serves as a useful resource of
factual reporting and editorials.
With so much regional coverage focusing on politics and security, it is sometimes easy to forget the Middle East’s burning cultural and social issues. Lebanese Voices covers an entire spectrum of Arab topics, from sport to beauty pageants, from fashion to the weather.
Palestinian-American entrepreneur Sam Bahour runs this blog on his homeland, covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from political and social perspectives. While Bahour’s work is far from impartial, the breadth of his postings ensures ePalestine continues to produce illuminating content.
When he’s not running The Guardian’s live blog, veteran Middle East journalist Brian Whitaker updates Al-Bab, a site dedicated to introducing Arab perspectives to the rest of the world. Whitaker’s experience and connections throughout the region gives Al-Bab a rarely attained level of authority and insight.
Samia Errazzouki, a Moroccan-American writer based in Washington, DC, focuses her academic research, as well as this blog, on political economy and reform in Morocco. Outside of this blog, Errazzouki, who is frequently published in other online publications, is also working on the Arab Studies Institute's Knowledge Production Project, while also serving as a co-editor of Jadaliyya's Maghreb Page.
A British-Egyptian blogger/tweeter, she is famous for her humorous, mercurial tweets and blogs during the Egyptian revolution and aftermath. Her parody of a Thomas Friedman column was particularly popular. She was featured on our 50 Best Twitter Feeds about the Middle East list.
Amira Yahyaoui, a Tunisian human rights activist, founded Al Bawsala, a Tunisian NGO working to protect and promote free expression and human rights by monitoring the constitutional assembly and parliament. Her goal is promote democracy in her home country, from which she was banned from for four years. In addition to monitoring, the site also focuses on advocacy and empowerment, “assisting in the development of citizens’ initiative.”
Naseem Tarawnah, 28, created this blog to address social and political issues in Jordan and “to chronicle the extraordinary voyage of metamorphosis” his home country has “embarked upon.” While finishing his master’s degree through the University of London and running the business arm of a citizen media company he founded, he manages to post frequently on domestic issues, with pictures, videos, comics, and memes throughout, and even some original poetry here and there.
Paanluel Wel and a team of South Sudanese bloggers from around the world write on a wide range of issues, from education to oil. Several of the bloggers are based in the United States, a couple from Australia and a couple still live in South Sudan. One regular contributor is a former child soldier, adding to the wide-ranging coverage.
Between them, Al-Jazeera English journalists Evan Hill and Gregg Carlstrom have reported on uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Bahrain. Their blog, the Majlis (the Council) supplements the coverage offered by the Doha-based news giant and provides additional insight from stories that don’t always make the Al-Jazeera cut.
While the model of a single author posting on a blog is on the decline in the region, and many sell their work elsewhere to sites like our own, there is still an active blogosphere in the region. We chose these based on the quality of writing, reporting and analysis, while also considering update frequency and coverage.