Oh, hi. I’m Zahra, an Arab/British writer and editor based in London, where I work as a content specialist at Facebook.
Prior to branching out into social media and tech, I was a journalist at Bloomberg News in Dubai (2010-2013) and London (2013-2016). At Bloomberg, I covered the Arab Spring and its aftermath from the economic and financial perspectives. I went on to edit, blog, and curate breaking news across various beats, including finance, markets, politics, and the economy. (I’ll admit it — I desperately miss news).
My background, though, is in the politics of the Middle East, which is where my ❤ and mind will always be. In this space, I (kind of) write about regional developments, whilst also analysing media coverage of the Arab world and Muslims globally.
JFYI I like to pen dweeby love letters to my favourite Arab writers, artists, singers, film-makers, and activists in an attempt to spread the word on how much brilliance this very troubled part of the world possesses.
Quick disclaimer: None of the material included in this blog is affiliated with/represents the views of my employer in any way. Articles shared are certainly not endorsements.
I’m Lebanese, dotted with some Syrian, Palestinian, and Egyptian. I was born in Belfast during the Lebanese civil war. Yes — my parents moved from one sectarian conflict to another.
I have a BA in politics from the American University of Beirut, where I served as editor-in-chief of Outlook, the student newspaper. I went on to get an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Manchester before ditching academia and moving to New York briefly, where I earned an MS in newspaper journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism.
Note: I would never have managed to go to Columbia had it not been for the wonderful people at the Scripps Howard Foundation. Attending the J-school changed my life. Besides immersing myself in journalism and falling in love with New York, I met some of the most incredible people I’ve ever come in contact with at Columbia.
My only other major achievement in life is the Kindness, Helpfulness, and Generosity Award, given to me by Ronkswood Primary School in the Midlands in 1994. I still have the certificate.
I’m also the communities editor at Always Take Notes, a new and fantastic podcast for and about writers and anyone interested in breaking into publishing and journalism. Go on: give us a listen. Oh, and I’m a volunteer at Homes for Syrians, an incredible UK charity that matches Syrian refugees with hosts across the country. You can donate to us here. It’s a great cause.
Back to Florence. The title of the blog is rooted in my love for film and the Middle East, as well as my name (which means flower in Arabic). The given name Florence is derived from the Latin florens, or florentius, meaning blossoming, or floreo, meaning to flower.
Florence of Arabia is also the name of a strip club in the Simpsons, located in Springfield next to the Ye Old Off-Ramp Inn. OK fine, it’s also the title of a book. And a movie based on the book, apparently. But I’d like to state here that before the novel was released, Florence of Arabia was my nickname on MSN Messenger, mIRC, and Aol.
Stay tuned for more.