When visiting a new country, a great way to get a feel of mainstream and emerging culture is to read the local newspaper, watch local TV programming and/or browse through the pages of magazines. Of the three, I tend to veer towards magazines because I like variety in topic, bursts of visual images, and a mix of macro- and micro- viewpoints. Truth is that when it comes to lifestyle magazines, it doesn’t actually matter if I can read the language or not as so much is said through topic selection, pictures and layout.
Here are four magazines that I read on our most recent trip to the Middle East.
A magazine dedicated to the contemporary people and culture of the Middle East and Northern Africa, Brownbook is released six times a year and features interviews on topics like architecture, food, travel, music, film, design and literature. Every time I read Brownbook (the first copy I bought was in Singapore), I feel I have opened a door to a whole new world.
The editor of Reorient is Joobin Bekhrad, co-founder of art clvb, a project that promotes contemporary art in the Middle East. As a result, the magazine is predominately about art, but more so in the sense of art as a medium for commentary and expression. Be prepared for tongue-in-cheek and witty references throughout.
Sur La Terre
I read Sur La Terre in a hotel spa waiting room, and as I flipped through the pages I noted that the magazine truly targeted at the wealthy demographic and lacked the kind of aspirational masstige commonly found in magazines today. The pages are all about the V.V.I.P. lifestyle filled with gem studded watches, ski holidays in Switzerland, Michelin star restaurants, mega yachts and big cars.
Ohlala is a women’s luxury lifestyle magazine, and through its pages you are introduced to the Gulf’s jetset. A kind of luxe-lite Harper’s Bazaar. An easy primer on all the curious and bedazzling luxuries the Middle East has to offer.