It goes without saying that the Middle East at large is not at the peak of its global PR campaign, and it has not been for a while. Constantly, news headlines illustrate its political disarray, proxy wars, corruption, and forms of extremism. The region is seemingly plagued, and has seen an unprecedented portion of its population displaced.
Despite all that, there is still a silver lining to be found. In the midst of the chaos, we find bastions of innovation spanning several countries and their cities. These are places where technology takes precedence over political and religious ideologies and instead, everyone is fighting for their company’s relevance on the tech scene.
Just a quick flight to Tel Aviv, and you see the pinnacle of Middle Eastern tech innovation. Political tensions run high in Israel, there is no doubt about it. Regardless, Tel Aviv has been a safe haven of technological innovation. Everyone and their mom has a startup in Tel Aviv.
There is no doubt this city is the main reason Israel has been dubbed the start-up nation. Israel leads the world in the number of researchers per capita and has so many startups they had to make a map just to keep track of them all. To top it all off, Israel hosts around 1,450 early stage startups.
The city (and even the whole country at that) is littered with shared spaces for startup incubators like WeWork and MindSpace. All that considered, it is no wonder that this 68 year old, New Jersey sized country of 8.5 million people has managed to work itself up to front-runner status among innovative countries worldwide.
The United Arab Emirates’ Dubai is one of the Middle East’s most well known metropolises. Serving as somewhat of an Oasis in this small, Middle Eastern country, Dubai is mostly known for its shopping and unprecedented architecture.
Boasting an unrivaled amount of skyscrapers, it is to nobody’s surprise that the city is as innovative as it makes itself appear.
Dubai aims to be the arbiter of technological innovation, with hopes to be the world’s most smart city by 2021. The phenomenon has proved itself contagious. Known incubator groups like 1776 have opened their first international campus in Dubai. Dubai even has an annual technology fair Gitex which hosts over 400 startups spanning over 60 countries.
While many Middle Eastern countries rely on surging oil prices to keep their economy afloat, the UAE, and namely Dubai, does not. Instead, Dubai is aiming to become an innovative leader of the tech world in order to keep its economy atop the global market.
Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut has been inhabited for nearly 5,000 years now. As one of the world’s oldest cities, it is impressively managing to hold its own weight within the new age tech scene.
Having been pondered as possibly the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East,” there are no doubts that Beirut has the potential to make heads turn and respect the name.There have been several notable investments amounting to over $100 million into Beirut’s tech scene, and there is no doubt they will propel Beirut to the utmost relevance in the near future.
Despite some logistical details needing to be ironed out (e.g. slow internet, lack of funding and mentorship, etc.), Beirut is seen as a bastion of endless potential. Do not just take my word for it; startup accelerators such as Flat6Labs and Speed, industry leaders I might add, have invested their own interests into propping up the Beirut startup tech scene.
Although Beirut may not be on the same level as Tel Aviv and Dubai just yet, keep an eye out. They are on the way there.