We’ve been diving deep into all the podcasts coming out of the UAE — keep up, it’s a fast-growing field — in search of savvy new offerings and established all-stars. Our criteria? Each podcast must be current, produced regularly and provide valuable tips for improving the health of your mind and body. Here’s what we found.
Derek Straat is an American ESL teacher who has lived in six countries and travelled through 50 since leaving New York City 15 years ago. One of the first podcasts in the “mindful” space, Straat started in March and wraps up the 18-episode first season of Dubai Diaries later this. The weekly podcast for “expats, friends of expats, and families who worry” aims at deconstructing what it means to live abroad, getting to the heart of how it forever changes an individual. As Canadian guest Jabari Jordan explained, he left home searching for “a posteriori” knowledge, a Latin phrase that means “knowledge after experience.” With a clever intro, solid production values and Straat’s familiarity with the wandering human experience, this podcast is well worth a listen. He also lives and works in Ras Al Khaimah, which adds a nice balance away from the natural gravitation of media to Dubai.
The Dukkan Show
This weekly podcast is all about being a “neo-bedouin”, a third-culture kid, or simply the kind of person who feels as though they fit in everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And that’s something many residents of the UAE will find both comforting and relaxing. With slick production values and a generous conversational style between hosts Omar Tom (OT), Reem Hameed and Mohamad Akkaoui, The Dukkan Show opens a window into how much pressure there is on 20- and 30-somethings to accomplish something big and do it fast. On a recent show the trio dove into the pervasive issue of anxiety and how to deal with it, adeptly steered by Hameed. While the guys talk about a tactic of imagining worst-case scenarios and then planning for them, Hameed says her defense mechanism of choice is positivity. “When I’m daydreaming, this is a space that I’m not allowed to be negative,” she says. Gratitude, burnout and starting from scratch are some past topics — there are also music mixes — that make this podcast a healthy listen.
Baby Belly Mom
Shereen Zarroug and Eleonora Fornelli are childbirth professionals with three children each. They started Baby Belly Mom last year after launching the same-named first doula and childbirth support agency in the UAE. With a relaxed manner and positive approach, they have tackled topics associated with midwifery, emotional health, breastfeeding and water births. There are lots of helpful tips and tricks: for example, spinningbabies.com is a great place to learn about fetal positioning for an easier birth. One recent episode took a deep dive into one woman’s induced birth with epidural — no scary stories or alarmism here. Their vibe is predominantly empowerment: that new moms and moms-to-be can and should trust themselves and their bodies.
Marcus Smith, who retired from playing professional rugby in 2010, went on to become a high-performance coach, launch the performance company/gym Innerfight and the food delivery company Smith St Paleo. He’s still a fierce competitor and ran 30 marathons — one per day — during last year’s Dubai Fitness Challenge. As one might expect from someone who knows how to hustle the way Smith does, his podcast is not only long-running (500+ episodes) but consistent. (We wish he’d sort out his sound levels, but it’s a small quibble compared to the tsunami of free and valuable content he’s offering.) It’s also relevant: in addition to interviews with lots of local movers and shakers, recently Smith’s been focusing on how to tailor outdoor workouts in the hot months — did you know bloating is a common side effect? — and take outdoor training inside.
Another brand new entry to the field, this weekly offering comes from Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder and managing director of the social enterprise Goumbook. Each episode brings an interview with a changemaker in the UAE’s sustainability field. Guests have included the general manager of Dubai’s PierChic restaurant, Luca Gagliardi, who discussed sustainable fine dining, and Elena Kinane, founder of Greenhart Farms, for a discussion on organic farming in the UAE. Neutral fuel, food waste and sustainable landscaping have also been covered. Antonelli Abella brings everyone into the conversation: in episode 3 she speaks to Alex Malhouf, regional corporate communications manager for Proctor & Gamble, who told her sustainability was a collective responsibility. “We need to make it easier for consumers to do the right thing,” says Malhouf.
The Two Vegans
The Two Vegans is hosted monthly by podcast network Ameaya FM’s founder Chirag Desai and Heetal Bhatia, a marketing manager who just recently launched a vegan store. They interview important players such as Freedom Pizza’s founder, Ian Ohan, and Tom Ellis from Plant Power. They talk about their personal preferences — vegan cheese is a recurring topic — and news from the vegan world, including sustainable growing and farming practices. There’s great intro music, good sound and an awesome tagline: “No animals were harmed in the making of this podcast.” Although they sometimes veer off-topic and Bhatia talks very, very quickly (we’d love to tell you the name of her online store, but we couldn’t catch it), this podcast is not only engaging but provides a much-needed local focus to a fast-growing space.
CSR of One
Author and blogger Courtney Brandt, who runs the foodie website A to Zaatar, is well into the first season of her new podcast with new episodes every Monday. As the title suggests — CSR stands for corporate social responsibility — this podcast focuses on what drives busy individuals to take on major charitable initiatives. While Brandt wants to draw attention to the various examples of good work by local heroes, she also hopes to inspire listeners to think about how they can make a difference themselves. Get some tissue handy, because these are powerful stories. Guests have included Kelly Harvarde, speaking about her Ramadan Fridges initiative. She recalled one of her favorite memories, when Saeed, one of the Burger King drivers they’d been working with all month, turned up at her door on the last day of the Holy Month with a meal from Burger King. “He just said, ‘I want to thank you, I’ve bought a meal for you — you fed us for the month,’” she recalls.
Mama Earth Talk
This podcast was launched last year by the South African artist and environmentalist Mariska Nell, whose exhibit at last autumn’s Dubai Design Week included a lamp she made from 913 used Nespresso pods. She also teamed up with Marita Peters, executive director of the non-profit water organization, for the 30-day Waste Me Not campaign. During the challenge both women wore dresses containing all the trash they produced. Peters has been among the lineup of interesting guests featured on the Mama Earth Talk, which includes eco-warriors, business owners and other local experts in the field. Mama Earth Talk empowers listeners on a variety of sustainable fronts, including the importance of reducing food waste, cutting down on plastic and recycling, as well as turtles, electric vehicles and eco-friendly mattresses. Nell opens every podcast with this cute greeting for her listeners: “Hello crazy birds.”
When Women Win
If your heart doesn’t soar just hearing that title, then you’ll be sold upon tuning in. Hosted by Dubai-based entrepreneur Rana Nawas — one of the best interviewers on this list — this podcast features twice-monthly inspirational interviews with fascinating, driven and forward-thinking women who have great advice for business and life. Recent guests have included Najla Al Midfa, chief executive of Sharjah’s entrepreneurship-building entity Sheraa, who quoted Rocky Balboa (“It’s not about how hard you hit but about how hard you can get hit and keep going”) and talked about her experience cultivating resilience. After missing out on a job at the global management firm McKinsey & Company in Dubai when she was 21 — because she was naive and ill-prepared for the interview — she tried again years later in New York, post-MBA, and got in. “If you take everything personally, your self-worth is going to be hurt every time…someone says no or things don’t go your way. Life becomes really difficult,” she says. “But if you actually see this as a challenge and not take it so personally, I find that it actually becomes exciting.”
Poetry, mountain climbing, writing, environmentalism and art are all topics that veteran French journalist Nathalie Gillet tackles in this podcast, which she launched last year. The mostly monthly episodes introduce a range of fascinating Emiratis we rarely get to read or hear about in this in-depth way, people like Thabet Al Qaissieh, a businessman who built the Al Sadeem space observatory on his family farm, and Talal Salem Al Sabiri, a poet. “I like starting fresh, early in the morning every day,” he tells Gillet. “Sometimes when you are really awake in the morning, you see things that people don’t see.”
This podcast company is the first in the Middle East to get venture capital funding, and plans to launch three new Arabic and English shows by the end of 2019. For now though, just tune in and take a mind-expanding, sometimes heartbreaking, listen to their original. This monthly podcast — occasionally broadcast in Arabic — offers long-form packaged storytelling rather than interviews. The result is more like a short radio documentary, with responsibly and carefully told stories from across the Middle East “and the spaces in between.” Don’t miss the love story of a maid from the Philippines and the man she married in Lebanon, or the impact of Iftah Ya Simsim (the Arabic Sesame Street) on one young Saudi boy. Expect alternative takes on a wide range of topics, including hijabs, female anti-radicalization movements and a drive to revive the Yemeni coffee industry.
All podcasts available on Apple podcasts and various other podcast providers. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments, on our social media or by emailing [email protected]
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is a journalist with 20 years of experience working in North America and the UAE, much of it as a writer, editor and columnist focusing on the areas of physical and mental wellness...