Have We Ignored The Middle East? (#2)

It has all the ingredients to your perfect next destination...

Have We Ignored The Middle East? (#2)

Every Sunday I publish a newsletter featuring the best hacks and insights I discover on my journey as an entrepreneur and investor.

I grew up with a certain affection for the Middle East. I was magnetised by the warmth of their people, the depth of their history and culture, and the strength of their family values. As an Armenian, I felt a sense of shared experience, particularly with second-generation migrants like myself. It was as if we shared an unspoken language.

Now, when considering where to live, the Middle East ticks most of my boxes. Good cost of living. Amazing weather. Convenient timezone. Rich culture. Easy access to the beach, as well as social opportunities. As my friend Vana puts it…

“Imagine working by the sea and then going skiing in the weekend… ahhhh the life”
— Vana Kassardjian, Lebanon

And don’t worry, I didn’t forget Middle Eastern food 😋

Cheese Lebanon GIF by BeirutFood

But, apart from Dubai and Tel Aviv, the Middle East rarely makes anyone’s travel plans. Religious conservatism, political violence and personal safety are all valid concerns. Even so, I question whether the region is being undervalued by digital nomads. Especially when Mexico City - one of the world’s murder capitals - is the 6th ‘best place to live for a digital nomad’.

This led me on a quest to discover why. I spoke with friends far and wide:

Many Middle Eastern countries need a thorough security review, which can be off-putting. I’ve been warned about ISIS’s presence in the Sinai when planning road trips from Tel Aviv to Cairo. But I have high hopes for better connections between countries after the recent agreement between Israel, Dubai, Bahrain and Sudan. At the moment, Dubai seems like the best option, followed by Tel Aviv, Beirut, Amman and the Red Sea Coast. I do expect freedom of movement to considerably improve in the coming years.
— Daniel Voignac, Israel
There’s a lot to do in Jordan and it’s fun for a couple of months - after that, life gets boring and demotivating. But I’m hopeful... there are cool labs like SESAME, a particle accelerator and joint programme for the whole of the Middle East. With more stuff like this, the place could be very different in 10 years’ time.
— Mohammad Abdin, Jordan
Dubai is the obvious ‘hotspot’. It’s got a fun lifestyle that you’d enjoy. In the UAE, Sharjah have a new Entrepreneurship Centre and is worth checking. Bahrain’s Manama has the largest FinTech hub in MENA and Oman’s Muscat has an ambitious Innovation Park. They’re both small and booming so you’d quickly get to know everyone. I’ve heard they’re a culture shock for some, but I reckon you’d be fine! There’s also tech culture in Saudi and Qatar, but they’re boring, expensive, and you’ll be living in a compound. 😬
— Lara Baitarian, Lebanon

After further research, it became clear that the Middle East has indeed been undervalued. Adding to Dubai and Tel Aviv, Amman, El Gouna, Beirut and Cairo all have the ingredients to be my perfect next destination. But, alleviating security issues and one’s ability to travel freely between these locations is vital for the Middle East to compete with the likes of South East Asia and South America.

With that being said, I think the Middle East might just be my next destination, especially when considering their apt covid response. And, if you’re a nomad looking to ‘find themselves’, I can’t think of anywhere better than the Biblical lands of Christ, Moses and Noah. 👼 ☦️

El Gouna, Egypt

I’d love to hear from you

What do you think - is the Middle East undervalued? Would you consider living there? You can reach me on Twitter or email: anthony@djangodigital.co.uk.

What I Read This Week

👩‍❤️‍👨 Normal People by Sally Rooney. 5/5. A love story between two teenagers growing up. It’s an intimate, entertaining and interesting insight into the human experience. It explores love, trauma, mental health, insecurities, class hierarchies, romance, the complexities of family & friendship. If you’re like me, and Corona’s fucked up your social and romantic life, this will for sure spice things up🌶️  Full notes on my website!

My Favourite Podcasts This Week

💎 Danny In The Valley Interviews ex-Google Exec and Mayor of Miami. Super cool episode. First guest - Sridhar Ramaswamy (ex-Googler) - discusses why Google fucked up search, and how he’s now taking them on. Second guest - Francis Suarez (Mayor of Miami) - discusses how he’s trying to turn Miami into America’s second tech hub. (53:21).

👨‍💻 Shane Parrish interviews Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress - the platform that runs most websites online. Awesome episode - they go deep into the pros and cons of open-source, distributed teams, public vs private companies, and decision-making. Matt drops some great hacks on how to increase organisational productivity with remote and distributed teams. Even my Dad, a business traditionalist, took value out of this one. A must listen! (1:25:43).

What I Hacked This Week

I created a lookalike audience of my email list in the Facebook Ads Manager. This helped me reduce the CAC (customer acquisition cost) of the automated sales funnel I built to sell instrumental music online. I posted a YouTube video showing you exactly how I did it 👇

Tools I Discovered This Week

🧑‍🎨 ColorZilla is a free Google Chrome Extension that gets you the HEX code of any pixel on the page. If you’re a web developer, graphic designer, or entrepreneur - ColorZilla is crazy useful.

🚀 Rocket is a free macOS App that lets you access every emoji directly through a shortcut window and easily add it to your sentence. Very handy when you’re quickly trying to flip someone off 🖕

Nomad News This Week

🏡 Nat Eliason launched Creator Towns, an initiative to grow small towns by leveraging the digital economy. It all went down after a series of his Tweets went viral. ‘Towns filled with creatives, entrepreneurs, and remote workers, where you can have a strong sense of community and connection with nature.’ Appealing to my utopic ideals, needless to say, I was quick to subscribe for updates! Meanwhile, Twitter’s army of ethical keyboard warriors tried to ruin the fun… 🥱

🐦 Excerpts From The Twitterverse

Thank you so much for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, be sure to share it with your friends and spread the word.

I want to be able to deliver the best content I can to all of you. To that end, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s working, what isn’t, and what you’d like more of. You can reach me on Twitter or email: anthony@djangodigital.co.uk.