2018 Christmas Gift Guide

I used to publish this on facebook and other platforms in the past. I aggregate this list because buying local products or services is a gift to both those you receiving your love and making it. 

The rules to making the list are:

  • Locally made
  • Can be ordered online, through instagram (or any social media) or via an online shop
  • A plus if it supports a cause

The below post includes the following categories:

  1. Tried, tested and loved
  2. Locally (mostly Lebanese) made products or bundles
  3. In Print
  4. Gifts supporting refugees
  5. Fashionable pieces from around

Tried, tested and loved

Waste Studio

My passport bag and gym duffle from Waste have been with me for years. I adore their fresh designs and collabs; they have something for everyone from beanbags to cardholders

You shop them online here: https://waste.studio/shop/ 
Or find them in any of the following outlets: https://waste.studio/all-the-shops/ (across Lebanon and in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

Green Glass Recycling Initiative (GGRIL)

This project started as a way of preserving the tradition of glass blowing and supporting the last few families that hold this tradition in Lebanon, as well as getting glass bottles out of landfills. I am cheating on this one as they don’t have an online store, but I love this project so much I’m giving it an exception (live with it!) 

They have lots of options, from lamps to decanters, bowls and shot glasses, all naturally colored glass and made with love. 

You can find their products at all the outlets listed on their facebook post
I personally recommend you check them out at Souk Al Tayeb or other exhibitions as they’ll have a bigger collection

Roadie Tuner

Is your friend or loved one a guitar, bass or string instrument lover? This is the PERFECT gift for them: a state of the art tuner! Best of all it’s designed and produced by the amazing Band Industries team in Lebanon. 

You can shop them online on their website: https://www.roadietuner.com/ or on amazon and it ships worldwide. 

Anghami Subscription

The gift of endless tunes. I have sent this to friends before and it’s often an instant win (knowing that my friend was sick of ads and their subscription was approaching end). This works as an add-on gift or stand alone, depends on your needs. 

Grandma would love the everlasting oldies on replay all day while she makes your favorite treats 😉 

You can buy the subscription through the app on iOS or Android or online https://www.anghami.com/giftland – and it plays on all your devices.

While you’re at it check out my favorite playlist “Saba7ak Moustaqel (Your Independent Morning)” صباحك مستقل and get inspired to support some amazing regional independent artists

Tania Saleh store: http://www.taniasaleh.com/store 
Mashrou3 Leila store: https://mashrouleila.tmstor.es/index.php 
Or the wonderful Mostakell مستقل (Supported by Eka3) website for more artists: https://mostakell.com/ 

MintBasil Market 

Local, organic, ethical, made with care and love. As our bodies and planet revolt against neglect and pollution, taking action in your day-to-day life becomes a way of life and it’s doesn’t have to be expensive and difficult. 

You can check out MinstBasil Market’s gift ideas here: 
https://mintbasilmarket.com/collections/gifts and browse the store for more.
They deliver everywhere in Lebanon for free


My favorite tried and tested (& I swear by their effectiveness) body-care brand is Beesline. Dry winters and cities are hell on the lips and I go through at least four of their Beesline Lip Care sticks every winter, nothing ever works as good as they do (trust me, I tired). And for the handy man or lady in your life, the Beeswax Ointment is a miracle worker on the worst chapped skin imaginable. Both fragrance-free. 

You can shop Beesline’s Products here: http://ae.shopbeesline.com/en/ as well as on MintBasil Market (above), as well as at most pharmacies in Lebanon


I adore their toddler and children collection, you just can’t go wrong with the witty Lebanese slang and modern-authentic twist on everything. They are perfect for friends living abroad or visiting for the holiday season, or simply for friends that love to play-it-up. 

I’m sure you know someone that can use some fresh cufflinks 😉

You can buy them on their website here: https://www.luanatic.com/ or their store on Camille Edde Street or other outlets listed on their instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/luanaticbeirut/ 

Mimo and Stitch

I bought the below pair of earrings for my bestie’s birthday in October via instagram. The earring were perfect and the service was great; overall love! Keep in mind that custom made (the below were) orders may need extra time, so order fast to get them done before Christmas or check what’s in stock for quicker purchases

You can order online via Mimo and Stitches instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/mimo_and_stitch/


Drop the Moleskin, these Lebanese made notebooks are just as epic! 


You can read more about Dingbats Green promise and buy products on their online shop in low quantities, bundles or bulk

(another Lebanese paper brand worth looking out for in stationery stores is PaperConcept, they don’t sell online but available in most outlets. I have been personally using their ~A6 soft-cover for a two years now)

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Not local, but features regional rocking ladies and global role models as well. I bought this for a friend’s daughter a while back and would buy it again for ladies-in-the-making

You can order them online on Rebel Girls’ website, via Amazon, or most local book sellers (online or offline)

Locally made products or bundles


You know what they say: Comfort starts from the toes. Or something like that, but seriously, how can you have a bad day if you’re wearing comfortable bright and funny socks…

Orders can be placed via Instagram DMs or email (hello@sikasok.com) or phone +961 71 180 323 and their facebook page for inspo  

FAR Leather Goods

Handcrafted from premium leathers in Beirut. I was introduced to their work when a friend custom ordered the tote below with lots of pockets in all the right places; a bag lovers dream. The finishing, handy-work and all are of utmost perfection. 

View this post on Instagram

Another Nyaeve tote done 💪

A post shared by FAR Leathergoods (@farleathergoods) on

You can DM them on instagram for inquiries and orders, as well as checking their collections. 

These products are handmade, so my advice is to check out what’s ready made (and maybe get initials embossed for personalization) to ensure you get them before Christmas as custom-orders might be tough to deliver. 


Let’s get clean! “Natural handcrafted soaps, made from goat’s milk with essential oils” how could you go wrong with that? 


Orders can be made by calling 03927198 and check out their instagram page to find Christmas markets they’ll be exhibiting for the season 

Koullouna Box

This is the ideal gift to ship to family and friends abroad or those that are there for the holidays only, or someone who loves exploring new local flavors, a bundle of Lebanon in a box 

 You can order online on their website here: https://www.koullounabox.com/15-our-previous-boxes and you can order one box or a 3 month subscription, both would be great gift ideas

Cedars Box

Give the gift of life, whether it’s a Cedar sapling to plant or one adopted in your loved ones name and cared for by professionals. May your love grow as strong as it’s roots and live on beyond your years, like a Cedar in glory

You can buy or adopt Cedars on their website

In Print

Locale SD

I have been following Locale for a few month and it makes me want to plan a trip to Sudan sooner rather than later. A country with little cultural publicity and under-appreciated history (upper Egypt). 

Locale produces zines that are sold at exhibitions or through online orders that explore Sudanese culture and arts. 

You can check out what works they have available and order via instagram DMs 

Dots Planner

We all have that friend that still uses a physical planner, well here’s one that’s designed, developed and made in Egypt! It comes in 4 basic colors, and two formats: Weekly Planner and Monthly Planner

This would make a great corporate gift idea for teams as well. 

You can order on Dots’ website or reach out to them on the email provided for bigger orders

Baladi & Palestine on a Plate

The gift of food, but one that keeps giving. I follow Joudie Kalla on instagram and drool almost daily at the miracles that leave her kitchen, each crafted with drooling perfection

Baladi is Joudie’s second book, the first is Palestine on a Plate, so you can always bundle up! The book has already received multiple praises and ranked top book of 2018 in food by multiple esteemed publications. 

You can order the books on Joudi’s website or via Amazon
Also make sure to follow Joudi on instagram

Gifts Supporting Refugees

Christmas is the season of giving, the Syrian, Yemeni and ongoing Iraqi, Libyan crises are some of the worst in recent history. Knowing putting a smile on your loved ones’ faces draws a warm blanket or relief to a refugee makes the gift all more worth giving. 

Soup for Syria

More books, more food. “a humanitarian cookbook project whose profits will be donated to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR to provide urgently needed food relief for Syrian refugees.”

You can order the book on Interlink Publishing’s store or Amazon. For bulk ordering or other forms of support refer to this page

Interlink is also the publisher of Baladi and other Levantine cuisine books like Mouneh and The Aleppo cookbook, so do take the time to go through other options as well. 

Refugee Made

The hype over charcoal activated products, scented soaps and candles can be made even better when supporting local producers in Iraq 

Feeling even more generous? Buy yourself and loved ones a gift of pure giving; whether a “Month of Educational Therapeutic Play for a Refugee Child” for $20 or a “Computer for Tech Student” for $600. There’s no limit to your generosity

You can check out the Refugee Made products on this page and the empowerment donations on this one

Choose Love

The most selfless gift of all, for those in London and New York you can physically visit Choose Love’s stores and buy for others what would help them survive. 

For the rest of us around the world, you can buy for refugees boots, food, blankets and even mental health support on the Choose Love’s online store. Scroll to the bottom for the “Digital Gift Voucher” option as well


Empowering refugees through mental health support and financial independence. There’s nothing more rewarding than being fashionably conscious, knowing your giving more than just money. 

You can buy Sabbara’s products on their website and follow their instagram to check out where they are exhibiting around the world

Fashionable Pieces From Around

L’omda Boga

Egyptian designer bags, that I’ve been personally in love with for a while now. Modern with authentic twist. 

Orders via instagram DMs


Emirati brand; traditional with a twist. The trend of conservative fashion is a beautiful and comfortable one! 

This brand was recommended by a friend (Thank you Farah!)
You buy their products directly on Ragmatazz’s website

Ryoko Handmade Leather Goods

Also a friend recommendation (until I realized I own a wooden ring from their older collections). Based out of Dubai, the lovely couple behind the brand are passionate about their craft and making your everyday experience with their products as seamless and functional. 

Make sure to check out their “Wooden” section for truly unique pieces.
You can buy their products on the Ryoko Bags website

Websites for local designers and products

Major eCommerce players are not the best place to find authentic gifts, but luckily the internet is budding with boutiques supporting local brands everywhere

Soukra (Tunisian Designers)

Fouxx.com (Arab Designers)

H-Shirts (Silk-printed Shirts)

Got more ideas? share them in the comments or on any social channels you see this post and I’ll add an update to the post in a week or so. 

Recommendations of: books by regional authors, local fashion or home-made designs, organically or ethically harvested goods, and re-purposed or recycled products, are welcome 

Have a blessed season <3 

MENA’s Digital News, Week #7

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and public sector news.

Investments & Acquisitions

Load ME, UAE based freight exchange startup, raises $1M https://goo.gl/jn9awz 

Kamkalima, Lebanon based edtech, raises $1.5M in Series A from Phoenician Fund and iSME https://goo.gl/wBKEbf

Webjet acquires Dubai travel firm Destinations of the World for $173M https://goo.gl/oA1qPt 

Sector News

Uber and Careem may start paying 22.5% corporate tax in Egypt https://goo.gl/d77W9w 

Chalhoub Group launches Dubai based co-working space and accelerator: Greenhouse, and announces first cohort startups https://goo.gl/EJ7WA6

Chalhoub Greenhouse Photo Credit to MENABytes

Saudi’s Badir Incubator launches in 4 new locations in the kingdom: Madina, Abha, Qassim and Dammam (AR) https://goo.gl/giojN5

Modus Capital, New York based venture capital firm, plans to expand into Egypt with incubation, seed and series A investment, and co-working space https://goo.gl/vZtyYs

Deutsche’s DWS to buy 15% stake in Dubai-based digital investment firm, Neo Technologies https://goo.gl/wtzzqn

Emirates NBD publicly launches their API sandbox https://goo.gl/cXJLTR 

Dubai’s Fintech sandbox announces it’s first licensed graduate Sarwa https://goo.gl/WyHoh9 

UAE announces the list of entities not allowed 100% foreign ownership (in follow up to law announced in August) https://goo.gl/UpwUgQ 

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) to Create Infrastructure for Cryptocurrency Assets https://goo.gl/XdAugm 

UAE’s Al Zarooni Group and US’s Crypto Bulls trading house to open the first official crypto-currency exchange to be registered in the UAE https://goo.gl/CXEmp5

Further Readings

Twitter launches very insightful data on users in Saudi Arabia, from influence to level of education, even behavior: 64% of users perceive a piece of news not as significant if it was not shared or discussed on Twitter (AR) https://goo.gl/sn6tgk 

Norton research shows that Saudi children are among the youngest in EMEA that receive smartphone, at approximately 7 years of age (AR) https://goo.gl/b1mFDC

Digital Gurus release a survey of average salaries of data engineers, scientists and analysts in the UAE https://goo.gl/krkRDk

Facebook releases it’s Egyptian market penetration numbers: 24M daily users and 37M monthly mobile users (more) https://goo.gl/Xgv2wS

According to Gartner, 787,000 bitcoins were mined in the first half of 2018 through illicit targeted crypto-mining in MEA https://goo.gl/L9PTQa 

Long Reads

Faith Capital release a MENA Venture Capital Regulatory Framework white paper https://goo.gl/MjxcZD

So Much Fintech, Not Enough Time

Robo-advisors seem to be have taken center stage in the last 2 weeks, a continuation on the global (Fintech is the most funded tech sector) and regional trend. 

WeInvest, Singapore based robo-advisor, raises $12.2M and targets Dubai office launch. The company is not new to the region as it has been part of the Fintech Hive Cycle in 2017, however the capital injection would help it compete aggressively as more robo-advisors enter the market at the same time. https://goo.gl/Ye89at

Image copyright to Investor Junkie

In the recent spotlight, Wahed, sharia compliant robo-advisor, that recently raised $7.75M from BECO Capital and Cue Ball Capital in late October. The company is a SEC registered Investment Advisory headquartered in New York and expanding to MENA as well

Meanwhile, Sarwa, also robo-advisor, was just granted license to operate in Dubai post DFSA sandbox incubation 

You can check out the international leaders in the space here

The financial management and payment landscape is changing rapidly and maybe a tad too fast for consumers to keep up, but significantly improving the regions financial infrastructure for future generations. From banks launching API’s (EmiratesNBD, and earlier this year Arab Bank) to crypto-exchanges. Bright days ahead! 

To get your daily dose subscribe to the Tech In MENA telegram channel here: https://t.me/technologyinmena

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Personally news: I have moved (back) to Dubai! After 7 years in Beirut (and on airplanes across MENA), I have resettled in the country I spent most of my life in: the UAE, and in Dubai (I grew up between Al Ain and Sharjah)

Reach out, let’s catchup over some tea or karak! 

MENA’s Digital News, Week #3

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and public sector news.

Investments & Acquisitions

Smart Crowd, Dubai’s real-estate crowdfunding platform, has raised $600k in seed funding from Shorooq Investments, Abaxx Technologies and 500Startups https://goo.gl/trmPFX 

AnaMehani, an online services marketplace, raises a third investment round from V.P.F Limited and moves it’s operations to Cairo (EN) https://goo.gl/YSuig6 (AR) https://goo.gl/3M8gMd 

Kitopi, Foodtech, raises a seed round from CE Ventures and BECO Capital https://goo.gl/K97dSz 

Skiplino Raises Series A Round from KISP Ventures https://goo.gl/ynM2Fy

Training Calendar, skill-development marketplace, raises $1M in seed funding https://goo.gl/tXbNvu 

BeyondCapital invests in Tickitto, AI powered digital concierge (on Linkedin) https://goo.gl/nr6CHL

Qordoba Announces $11.5M Series B Funding https://goo.gl/1fELPx

Samara, Saudi car-rental company, acquires CarSpa, mobile on-demand car services startup (on Linkedin) https://goo.gl/2qj1d3

Qwikly Dubai

Sector News

Jordan’s Arab Bank announces plans to launch a $30M fintech fund and incubator before end of October https://goo.gl/9ftPVN 

Bahrain’s Economic Development Board announces plans to raise a $100M Fintech fund outside the existing $100M AlWafa fund of funds announced earlier in the year https://goo.gl/i1qqgt 

Saudi British Bank (SABB) to Acquire Alawwal Bank for $5B https://goo.gl/wvNDSq

Dubai Airports signs 10-year extension with leading outdoor advertising company JCDecaux https://goo.gl/1MkXnF

Islamic Finance company embarks on launching Digital Sukuk in the age of cryptocurrency, followed by an Ethereum blockchain asset in 2019 https://goo.gl/h1TaEq

Shared electric scooters to hit Dubai pavements soon https://goo.gl/n4mSyV 

Egypt is producing smartphones and expanding it into Africa https://goo.gl/F9qhbn

Further Readings

ArabNet’s Kuwait Innovation Economy Tech Startups 2018 Report: “88% of Kuwaiti startups mention referral marketing as a key challenge to attracting new business.” https://goo.gl/XuoXMb 

CBInsight’s “How Saudi Arabia Is Hedging Against An Oil-Less Future” https://goo.gl/1wGfqk

NEOM announces it’s global advisory board including prominent names such as: YCombinator’s Sam Altman; Az16’s Marc Andreessen; Uber’s Travis Kalanick; and ofcourse Softbank’s Masayoshi Son https://goo.gl/GdYTQr

SoftBank Vision Fund in talks for a majority stake investment in WeWork totaling ~$15B; it already owns 20% after committing $4.4B last year https://goo.gl/CwrWko

MIT and Qatar Computing Research Institute are working on a training computers to detect fake news sites https://goo.gl/MtCGrJ 

The rise of the data monster

What’s framing the discussion about data within your organization or personal consumption today? For me it’s the following:

  • GDPR leading to a decrease in trackbacks on websites in the EU and an increase in trackbacks on US based sites [here]
  • IBM’s latest Cost of Data Breach report, that shows the MENA is the second most expensive geography to endure a data breach by public and private sector [here]
  • Tim Berners-Lee’s (Director of the World Wide Web) latest venture for increased data-ownership protocols by the consumer vs platforms [here]
  • Endless breaches: from AppleID’s used in China [here], to Facebook’s latest breach [here] and final coffin of Google+ security loophole [here]
  • Bloomberg’s disputed article on China’s spying espionage which was widely denied by everyone 

I have also recently read and reviewed Unscaled by Hemant Taneja which focuses on the rise of decentralization and its long term impact on the business world as we know it. Which evoked me to think: “Something I’d sign up for: an encrypted lifetime health record that can only be accessed with a biometric password or a physical encryption key, were only the patient owns their data and can “lease” or give access to their data to doctors and health care providers as needed (or to pharma and researchers)” 

From an individuals perspective: Maybe a decentralized data future would be a replacement for that “important documents” folder you have lying around in the back of your closet with everything from birth certificates to contracts, into an encrypted folder that can be accessed or authorized partially as needed. 

From a business perspective: To get better at security we need far more (cyber)security engineers and researchers. Are you training some or investing in getting more on your team?
Also what checks and balances do you have in place to secure your supply chain regardless where your manufacturing is done. Do you have security auditors in-house or outsourced? How to you take responsibility for your service or product?

Food for thought. 

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