Middle East social entrepreneurship and tourism...how do you do both, and can you even do both? Our answer is a simple yes! We’ve compiled a list of the coolest organizations to check out when you’re in the Middle East. We’re focusing on Palestinian social enterprises and organizations, and featuring a couple more in Jordan, and Egypt.
Check out our list of the coolest picks below:
Social Entrepreneurship in Egypt
Yomken.com is an online crowdsolving platform founded in Egypt by Tamer Taha. Yomken means “it is possible.” and that’s what the platform provides - possibility. Yomken allows people to post common challenges social, environmental, health, etc. On Yomken’s platform individuals, organizations, and start-ups can post challenges, and where innovative individuals can solve them in exchange for rewards.
Visit their office in Downtown Cairo to learn more about their impact!
Social Entrepreneurship in Jordan
Featured: Tech Tribes
Tech Tribes is a Jordan-based social enterprise which “helps youth, cause-driven groups and nonprofits better respond to community issues, improve governance, develop meaningful policies, and mobilize for social change.” Tech Tribes focuses on digitizing social innovation to address local and global social challenges, and on creating a space and environment for youth to foster social change.
Social Entrepreneurship in Palestine
Take part in Dalia Association’s Diaspora Solidarity Volunteer Program
This summer, Dalia Association is running a Diaspora Solidarity Volunteer Program which is scheduled to begin on July 1st. The program is broken down into 10 days, each featuring either a trip to a Palestinian city, or volunteering opportunities. The program targets Palestinians in the diaspora, as well as friends and allies. Learn more about the program here.
Also, if you’re into thrifting (who isn’t?), make sure to visit Dalia Association’s second-hand shop, Dukkan. It’s a hidden gem in Ramallah, and proceeds go to support activities at Dalia - all for a good cause!
Visit The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Unit in Birzeit University
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Unit at Birzeit University is planning to launch the Social Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking stations, as part of the University’s “Leadership and Active Citizenship Program - Masari” The program name is Social Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking as part of Masari program, and it is expected to target 3,000 students, and will run over 14 sessions, one per week.
If your interested in seeing the role academia plays in shaping future social entrepreneurs, definitely do pay the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Unit in Birzeit University a visit!
Volunteer at the Palestinian Museum of Natural History (PMNH)
The Palestinian Museum of Natural History is another cool organization to check out when you’re trying to merge tourism and social entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Most of the work done is volunteer-effort based. PMNH runs several projects on research, education, and conservation of “ our natural world, culture and heritage.”
A social entrepreneur tourist can get involved by volunteering in a research project, in their community garden, in cultural heritage, education, media, administration, among other volunteer opportunities. You can also a visit to the museum grounds which overlook picturesque views of Bet Jala to explore the amazing work they do.
For the farmer in you… head to Om Sleiman Farm in Bil’in
Om Sleiman is a farm in Bil’in, a Palestinian village near Ramallah. The farm is part of the community supported agriculture (CSA) system in Palestine that’s working on working on reviving Palestine’s traditional agricultural heritage. Co-founded by Mohab Alami and Yara Duwani in 2016, the farm produces kale, avocados, broccoli, as well as other fruits and vegetables.
It’s also part of the growing peaceful resistance movement in Palestine.The agroecology project works on reclaiming food sovereignty and independence from Israeli products.
Om Sleiman Farm hosts international and local volunteers at the farm (as well as their hostel). So if you’re interested in doing some farm work in Palestinian nature, consider Om Sleiman was your next destination.
Visit, work, support.
If you want to buy touristy souvenirs (it’s okay, no one’s judging)
We all like to buy little reminders of the places we’ve been. Check out the below fair-trade organizations to support the local community and to avoid overpriced tourist traps.
Sunbula - Jerusalem (and online)
Sunbula is a fair trade organization which supports the economic empowerment of the marginalized through the promotion of traditional handicrafts. Sunbula is always happy to host visitors, and even organizes visits to their partner craft producer groups in refugee camps, villages, and Bedouin communities across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Going on a Sunbula tour will allow you to visit local communities, and to experience Palestine in its most genuine sense, and to learn first-hand about women's grassroots economic empowerment work. Depending on the size of the group, Sunbula can also arrange home-cooked meals so you can further indulge in the authentic Palestinian experience.
Souq El Harajeh - Ramallah
Souq El Harajeh is a weekly outdoor market in Ramallah that takes place over the summer months (usually July and August). The market features independent artists, social entrepreneurs, women’s cooperatives - you name it. You can also enjoy some local foods with mint-tea as you watch the weekly performance in the outdoor municipal theatre. Make sure to check out their evening shows while your there!
Resign for Recycling Design - Beit Sahour
If you want to buy unique souvenirs, head nowhere but to Resign for Recycling Design run by Ala’ Hilu. Ala’ uses waste materials to create jewelry, pieces of furniture, house supplies, you name it!
If there’s one thing you can guarantee when purchasing Ala’s products, it’s that they are one of a kind, and are created for a cause - alleviating environmental waste His workshop is in Beit Sahour, make sure to check it out here!
BONUS TIP: If you want a little bit of everything, visit Disarming Design from Palestine in Hosh Jalseh in Birzeit
Disarming Design from Palestine (DDFP) is a Birzeit-based social enterprise that works with Palestinian designers to create products that they describe as “poetic resistance.” These products are then sold in both the local and international markets.
DDFP run annual workshops, or “createshops”, in which participants live and experience life as Palestinians, in every meaning that being Palestinian has. In addition to that, DDFP also has a community space, a cafe and a library, all in Hosh Jalseh in Birzeit. They host monthly cultural and entertainment nights.
Their next project is setting up a guest house and an artisan shop in an adjacent space they just acquired. And while the team is very small (one full time, and one part time employees), their dreams extend towards the horizon. They hire students to help out in the cafe, and also depend highly on volunteer efforts.
“We’re dreamers. We dream and we achieve.”
Are you on your way to check out the Middle East social entrepreneurial scene yet?
Finally, you can visit us at BuildPalestine! We are based in uMake Co-working space (another cool spot to visit). We’d love to connect you with more social work impact projects and impact organizations here in Palestine!
Ahlan wa Sahlan (welcome)!