Ibn Ibn Battuta's Instagram Favorites: Middle East & North Africa Edition

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Middle East & North Africa category: Featured photos from @hafid.marouane, @thekarimphoto, @tasneemalsultan, @arabictypography, @layasmeen, @yasmineharzallah, @strollingplaces, @zamaaan, and @yoriyas.
This is the second post in my "Instagram Favorites" series. See the first post here: "Global Edition". For information on my selection criteria, see "Intro".

In this day and age, anyone who wants to properly understand the greater Middle East & North Africa must first move there, then spend a great deal of time unlearning all that he or she learned back home in order to start again with a fresh perspective and develop a vision more grounded in the region's singular cultural realities. Elsewhere, so much misleading, unfounded, and downright wacky BS is written and shared about this region that it's best to simply experience it for oneself in order to distinguish fact from fiction.

But for those unable to experience it firsthand, the next best thing is to tap media that give a more accurate picture. Instagram is no exception to all this. Whether you're in the region or far away, my recommendation is to follow accounts that present the region (at least somewhat) as its citizens experience it. The accounts in this list can certainly help. Don't expect to see a lot of camels in the desert—expect better.

One way I gain a new, deeper perspective on the region is by following women photographers. In a region with more gender segregation than my own country, it can be especially insightful to follow women, who gain access to a different set of places and moments than I can.

Even if many countries in the region are enduring difficult periods, real life need not always be ugly. As these accounts show, there are many beautiful moments across the Middle East & North Africa every day, sometimes even where you would least expect it.

Moroccans and Tunisians show some strong game, and thus are overrepresented in this list, but it also includes Egyptian, Bahraini, Lebanese, Saudi, Emirati, and Iranian artists and more. (Algerians get their own entry all to themselves, so aren't included here.) Enjoy:

Aggregator Accounts:

1. @zamaaan: Meaning "looong ago" in Arabic, this account shares fans' family photos from the early days—also known as the Arab world's golden years, as many old-timers in this region view the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Beautiful, intimate, and full of emotion.


2. @arabictypography: Arabic calligraphy, signage, graffiti, and other writing from across the Arab world. You never know what you'll find. #foundkhtt


3. @rawiyacollective: Six talented Middle Eastern photographers run this collective, sharing their own arresting shots along with featured contributors. Another great glimpse of real life across the region.


4. @everydaymiddleeast: Daily life with a dash of the traditional, showcasing a wide variety of countries and cultures. Highly recommended.


5. @middleeasterndailylife: Beautiful shots from everyday life throughout the region.


Individual Accounts:

1. @tasneemalsultan: Given its strict gender segregation and deeply conservative culture, one wouldn't expect Saudi Arabia to be fertile ground for an ambitious photographer. But Tasneem AlSultan does far more than "make the most of it"—she takes probably the best pictures I've seen of daily life, celebrations, and the in-between moments of life in the modern Arab world.


2. @yoriyas: This Casablanca native shoots some of the world's most stunning street photography, and is rapidly gaining international acclaim. An account full of unreal shots, definitely worth following.


3. @hanaperlas: Beautiful, lively shots of Egypt in all its intangible glory, with pensive portraits and precise streetscapes. Egypt is home to many talented photographers but I can't think of a better one.


4. @strollingplaces: Bahrain has never been at the top of my travel wish list. But Hafsa of @strollingplaces brings such beautiful light and feeling to the place that it's moving up my list fast. Very underappreciated.


5. @yasmineharzallah: Worldwide, one group seems to consistently have the best balance of artistic talent and time to kill: architecture students. Hailing from Tunisia, Yasmine exemplifies the type, with a great eye for composition and detail.


6. @natnacphotos: Vivid colors and poignant moments from Beirut to the Gulf and beyond.


7. @thekarimphoto: Talented photojournalist covering the Arab World and Asia.


8. @mountain_cultist: Landscapes, medinas, and more from Morocco.


9. @hudadesu: This South Korea-based Yemeni art student is bringing a distinct style to a very unexpected location, producing striking results that definitely deserve wider attention.


10. @hafid.marouane: A Moroccan architecture student. Who's surprised?


11. @masoud__gharaei: Street photographer Masoud Gharaei shares stark yet intimate portraits and scenes of daily life in Tehran.


12. @layasmeen: A North African in Dubai! With a great eye for detail, too. Nobody loves tiles (or tracks down beautiful ones) more than Yasmeen.


13. @davidhabchy: Textured, meditative shots from the talented Beirut-based graphic designer.


Honorable mentions for best handle go to @that.bass and @rwinalife :)

I hope you enjoyed this list. Stay tuned in the coming days for my picks from the Algeria and Film Photography categories! And don't forget to follow me on Instagram at @ibnbnbattuta!

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