Arab Bloggers: Where Is The Great Exchange?

With the Arab blogosphere growing as rapidly as it is, it’s really tough enough keeping up to date with the new blogs that come out in Jordan, let alone follow blogs happening outside our own borders. And this premise is in itself strange. The Internet is meant to be border less. The geography and politics and distortion that has kept the Arab street divided for so long, should be theoretically absent in the online world. Yet, it isn’t. How many people follow other Arab blogs? From Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, to Palestine, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Egypt has one of the biggest blogospheres, yet for the life of me, I can’t count more than five Egyptian blogs that I frequently read.

One could argue that perhaps time is a factor, or even the fact that everyone pays more attention to the events that hit closest to home, hence there’s the tendency to read blogs that are located closer to home. Yet even interaction is extremely limited. There isn’t a big exchange of comments, thoughts and ideas between Arab bloggers. The majority of readers and commenters will be from the same country itself, or a foreign country all together.

This is one of the reasons Toot is still my favorite aggregator, and I check it several times daily, just to get a rough feel, or a sampling, of what other bloggers in the Arab world have to say. To say nothing of Global Voices.

It’s a shame that we’re all bloggers and we’re mostly young, yet we depend largely on satellite news broadcasts, along with our parents, for news about what’s happening next door. It’s a shame there isn’t a greater exchange, especially with technology granting us what on-the-ground realities have denied us for so long.

We would discover we have a lot more in common than the standardized elements of language, history, religion and our cynical view of Arab governments.


  • The great exchange you seek is a journey, and blogging helps define who we need to be for that journey. But it is a long journey that also requires a shift in mindstyle and lifestyle.

    I’ve been living for 8 years now without any terrestrial nor satellite TV in my home. My source of news, entertainment and connectivity is the internet, cinema, DVDs and the street. I am not less informed, nor less entertained, nor less connected than anyone I know. The TV-less world started as a joke, then evolved into an experiment/challenge and is now a liberating way of life. Try it!

  • I’ve been TV-less most of my life, and itoot is my fav agregator too.

    People default to what is comfortable. I think things will change.

  • Well, I just don’t understand why there is a virtual border between the different Arab blogospheres. I could understand it if it was a matter of language (like, i.e., in Europe), but it isn’t. So why do people prefer to virtually stay with their own kind?
    One reason might by, that local Jordanian politics don’t matter to an Egyptian. And that reviews of Cairo’s restaurants are not really what a Saudi will search on the internet. But this specific, regional content is only a (small) part of the blogged issues – it shouldn’t keep people from reading any foreign blogs.
    Another reason might as well be the fact, that bloggers mostly link to bloggers they know. Whom do you know? You’re neighbors, colleagues, co-eds. It’s not too easy to break out of that circle which is often concentrated in a small area – foreign blogs just don’t get in sight.

    I’ve been TV-less since 2001 or so – never had a problem with that. Only I can’t sit still and watch a film of more than 15 minutes any more. I’m definitely a youtube kid 😛

  • Well, I guess that we define our borders virtually, but the beauty of it is that you can cross that border freely. Also, as Simon said, why would I read something that is beyond my interest? For example, I have never read egyptian blogs, but in the last two days I was interested in the strike they had, so I kept checking some of the blogs..

    Anywho, we are so localized and thats the way it is. Even locally we are divided across different lines.

  • I am not a blogger myself, but my research looks into news broadcasting in the Arab world and to what extent it facilitates a participatory and deliberative culture (my case study looks particularly at Jordanian citizens). Although my data has not all been processed yet, and so my results are far from conclusive, nevertheless there seems to be a definite trend in the news to invite citizens to comment (thus positioning them as spectators of political events) rather than invite them to debate policy or provide alternative solutions (as ideally citizens should do). I feel that the Jordanian blogosphere in particular has been incredibly effective in promoting policy-driven talk rather than comment-driven venting.

    My point is, you may feel frustrated that the ‘great exchange’ between arab bloggers has not happened YET, however, Jordanian blogs have definitely started a ‘great exchange’ of policy driven debate – and that in itself, to me, is a very significant contribution! So kudos to all of you 🙂

Your Two Piasters: