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(photo credit: AP [illustrative])
Contrary to the belief that Arab women throughout the Middle East do not have access to or interest in the Internet outside of work, the vast majority of Arab women access the web from home, belong to a social networking site and use the Internet to connect with friends, a regional survey by the Gulf-based research group YouGovSiraj has found.
The study into evolving online attitudes and behaviors of Arab women across the Middle East found that 85 percent of Arab women using the Internet access it from home, 71% belong to a social network and 66% connect with friends online on a daily basis. The survey also found 45% of Arab women online were reading articles and magazines, and 34% of them were spending at least 10 hours a week browsing the Internet outside of work.
The study conducted in April and released on Sunday, surveyed over 1,250
women from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman,
Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Lebanon held the highest online usage for women with 68% of those
surveyed spending more than seven hours a week online outside of work,
followed by the UAE at 55%, Kuwait 53%, Egypt 50%, Qatar 47%, Saudi
Arabia and Jordan 44%, Bahrain 42%, Syria 34% and Oman 30%.
The study found Facebook to be the leading social networking platform
among Arab women, with an estimated 91% of online Lebanese women having a
Facebook account, followed by 80% of online women in Egypt, 78% in the
UAE, 70% in Jordan, 68% in Kuwait and Qatar, 66% in Bahrain, 64% in
Saudi Arabia, 55% in Oman and 45% in Syria.
“This was a huge study,” Lara Al Barazi, Research Manager at YouGovSiraj
told The Media Line. “We combined quantitative and qualitative
approaches to better understand Arab women’s lives online: how they
access the Internet, what kind of websites and information they look at,
what role it plays in their lives, and what they do when they are
“You have to remember that these people are already connected,” she
said. “So this was not a study into how many Arab women connect to the
Internet, it was a study into what Arab women who are already connected
are doing online.”
The study was commissioned by anaZahra.com, a new website on Arab
women’s lifestyles set to be launched next month by the Abu Dhabi Media
Company, creator of the international English-language daily The
National. The site will target Arabic-speaking women across the Middle
East interested in fashion, beauty, celebrity news and various lifestyle
“Everyone believes Arab women are not as interested in digital content
as they are in reading magazines, but we discovered that the Internet
plays an integral part of Arab women’s lives, whether they are living in
different parts of Saudi Arabia or a city in the UAE,” Zoya Sakr,
Managing Director of anaZahra.com told The Media Line. “Arab women are
getting really into digital stuff.”
“Arab women regularly consult the Internet, both during the week and on
the weekends, but there is a lack of portals that offer high-quality
content in Arabic for them,” she said. “There is almost no competition,
as the portals that exist are very traditional or local. So if you ask
Arab women where they go for fashion and beauty, they say that they
consult international websites.”
“We will have original content from over a dozen editors, with
contributors in London, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and the Gulf,” she said.
“We want women to inspire women.”
Sakr said web developers and entrepreneurs throughout the region were
slowly waking up to the already large and growing female audience.
“Women's community sites are a key growth sector online globally,” said
Sakr. “Women are an important audience segment for content creators and
marketers: they are expressive and they are connected. They like sharing
with their friends and family and they are eager to engage with other
“There is no doubt the world is going digital and this results in major
changes in our daily habits, from socializing to entertainment," said
Ricky Ghai, Executive Director of Digital Media at the Abu Dhabi Media
Company. “This is especially true when it comes to modern Arab women,
who have become more and more interested and involved in the digital