King’s Alumni Launch Magazine for Arab Youth
As COVID-19 quarantines and lockdowns turned more and more people to their screens to find social fulfillment, two King’s alumni had an idea to launch an online magazine that would serve as a platform to connect Arab youth to their heritage. Co-founded by Raghda Obeidat ’20 and Zaid Zoubi ’20, Taleed is “by and for Arab youth.” Articles are published under three categories: opinions, culture and creatives, and each article is presented in both English and Arabic.
Obeidat, a law student at the University of Jordan, and Zoubi, who has not yet declared his major at Pomona College in California, spoke with Beyond King’s about Taleed’s origins, its purpose and where they plan to take the magazine next.
How did the idea for Taleed come about?
Obeidat: It was in March of last year. Zaid randomly texted me around midnight, and he said, “Raghda I have this idea for a magazine. If I do it would you want to do it with me?” I said yes, but I didn’t think he was actually being serious!
Zoubi: It’s related to Al-Majnoonah, the King’s Academy literary magazine, because I was editor-in-chief and Raghda was the English editor, so it was an activity that we were comfortable with. The idea for Taleed started before quarantine, but quarantine was in our favor, because we had all that time to plan it and make it happen. We worked heavily on the magazine after graduation because of AP exams and finals, and we ended up launching in October. We were a team of 17, maybe 15 of which were King’s students or alumni as both writers and artists.
What sets Taleed apart from other magazines and online publications or communities?
Obeidat: When we first started thinking about the idea of the magazine, Zaid and I talked a lot about how there’s this narrative that has been spun about who Arabs are and what the Arab identity is. Much of the talk and discussions that we’ve been hearing about have been shaped by the West and by stereotypes, though a lot of it is also shaped by the voices of diaspora and immigrants. But we haven’t seen a lot of work by Arab people living in Arab countries talking about what being Arab means to them.
Zoubi: Taleed is also an attempt to recapture our own narrative. The world has become globalized to the extent that we don’t know what role our Arab identity plays in our day-to-day lives. We’re not in touch with our identity, and Taleed is an exploration of what that means. Raghda and I, we don’t have an answer ourselves. Our aim is to share the voices of Arab youth by providing this platform.
Obeidat: There’s a lot of self-hatred towards our Arab traditions and our Arab culture, which are often seen as not cool or not as cool as what’s Western. My experiences at King’s helped me embrace my Arab culture and explore it. That’s something that we wanted to capture with Taleed, even through the name itself, which means “something that is inherited or everlasting.”
Who is your target audience?
Obeidat: Our target audience is young Arab people in general. Our goal isn’t just to stay local, with a Jordanian audience, we want our audience to be more regional, maybe even global.
Zoubi: There’s a lot of value in being a Jordanian magazine, or based in Jordan, but we’re working to expand our content. We do address all Arabs around the world, also people who are interested in Arab culture and experiences even if they might not necessarily be Arab. Our second issue is focused on Pan-Arabism in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s been so interesting speaking with youth from North Africa.
Obeidat: We realized that there are a lot of nuances, even with the word “Arab” itself. What does it mean and how does it affect other people, like indigenous people in North Africa, Amazigh tribes and so on? Who are we excluding when we define “Arab” if our reach is the entire region?
In what ways are you hoping to grow the magazine in the future?
Zoubi: When we started out, we had no idea how to start a magazine, but that ended up being a good thing: we didn’t know what we should do but we also didn’t know what we couldn’t do. So we’ve taken a very diverse approach: our vision stays the same — to produce quality content in English and Arabic that speaks to our youth — but we’re also trying to find new ways to explore that vision. We’re hoping to involve more video content in Arabic and to be able to print the magazine at some point.
Do you feel you have grown personally through the experience of founding and running Taleed?
Obeidat: At the beginning I was hesitant about us trying to aspire to too much, but Zaid was adamant about aiming high. I always try to be realistic and logical, but something important I’ve learned is that it doesn’t hurt to always reach for the stars! We’ve both realized that everything that happened — even mistakes we’ve made — are all part of the learning process.
Zoubi: Having a mission and a direction was very important because we wouldn’t dwell too much on an obstacle. We just believed in the magazine. Raghda created the website, and we had no experience in website development — she just learned it on the spot. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and there’s no point in dwelling on how you’re better or worse at something. We had a huge team so we focused on everyone’s strengths and we could embrace them where they best fit. A lot of King’s alumni also helped us and we really want to thank them for their support.
Read Taleed at taleedmagazine.com