Trying to understand the Middle East is complicated at best and impossible at worst. News stories give conflicting views of developments on the ground and much of the mainstream media coverage is steeped in stereotypes and lacking in nuance.
The following list of podcasts are essential listening if you’re interested in the region – they deconstruct Middle Eastern history, politics, culture and business to give you a clearer picture of what’s going on in this fascinating and often misunderstood part of the world.
Politics & current affairs
Hosted by ex-Al Qaeda jihadi turned MI6 spy Aimen Dean, and former monk turned filmmaker Thomas Small, CONFLICTED unpacks the complicated realities of war and extremism in the Middle East and analyses their global implications.
Activist and political refugee Iyad al-Baghdadi joins Ahmed Gatnash to discuss all things relating to authoritarianism and liberty. The podcast offers a valuable insight into the structures sustaining dictatorships in the Arab World and beyond.
Middle East Focus is produced by Washington DC’s Middle East Institute and covers both current events and wider themes such as regional relations and women’s rights.
The New York Times’ highly addictive documentary podcast, Caliphate, follows terrorism journalist Rukmini Callimachi in her quest to understand the inner workings of the so-called Islamic State.
Al Monitor’s weekly podcast, Off the Hookah, offers an up to date and sometimes amusing look at the headlines in the region.
The Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy provides a very insightful view of the events dominating the news in the region and their impact on the rest of the world.
The BBC’s former Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen recalls his 20+ years as a journalist covering the region, taking listeners on a gripping journey through his first hand experiences of the events that have shaped the Middle East’s history and continue to have an impact on the region and the world today.
A fascinating account of the history of Islam, especially useful for those trying to understand the origins of the sectarian conflicts currently raging across the Middle East.
feMENA is a feminist podcast about women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa, covering a variety of issues including female entrepreneurship, political participation, domestic violence and child marriage.
KFPA Radio explores the complex web of class, gender, ethnic, religious and regional differences which separate and distinguish the ways of life and political and ideological perspectives of people in the Middle East.
Kerning cultures seeks to dissect the traditional media narratives of the Middle East, telling stories that reflect the depth and richness of the region.
Produced by the Gulf News Business team, Dirhams and Dollars gives a weekly insight into business in the Middle East, focusing on how current events in the region and worldwide are shaping the economy and business environment in the Gulf and beyond.
This is the podcast version of Dubai Eye Radio’s business breakfast show, which provides a roundup of the day’s most important stories, providing a local perspective on the international issues of the moment including commentary from key businesspeople and analysts in the UAE.
Marc Lynch, an academic at George Washington University in the US, produces the Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) podcast, interviewing a different academic every week about to discuss their work. The podcast explores a variety topics from jihadist poetry to blogging in Egypt.
The podcast version of live events taking place at the London School of Economics Middle East Centre. The MEC’s busy programme includes talks by visiting academics and speakers on Middle Eastern history and politics.
Recordings of events at the University of Oxford’s Middle East Centre, where leading academics and authors discuss current events and key themes in regional history, politics and culture.
With a new episode roughly every month, this podcast provides a vital update on events on the ground in one of the world’s most confusing and hard-to-follow conflicts.
The Lebanese Politics Podcast provides a weekly dose of in-depth analysis of the key issues dominating the news in Lebanon, from government alliances and sanctions to wildfires, protests and electricity shortages.
The podcast version of Chicago-based publication, The Electronic Intifada, which offers a Palestinian perspective on Israeli-Palestinian issues and features conversations with newsmakers, analysts and activists.
Explorer D. Michael takes you on an audio tour on one of the region’s most beautiful and mysterious countries: Oman. From documenting intrepid trips to far-flung corners of the Sultanate to explaining the local culture, Sultanate is the ultimate guide for those seeking to understand and explore Oman.
Aswat is produced by a Western expat living in Jeddah with the aim of shedding light on culture and society in Saudi Arabia. It consists of conversations with Saudis about a range of issues from women’s rights and mental health to expat life and pets.
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