Omar Tom, Reem Hameed and Mohamad Akkaoui – the voices behind the thought-provoking podcast The Dukkan Show – call themselves neo-bedouins. And tracking the journeys that brought them to Dubai, it’s easy to see why. “Neo means new, and bedouins are travellers and nomadic by nature, so have never really been one culture,” Omar – aka OT – explains. For the record, OT is Sudanese in origin, spent his early years in the UAE, and “thinks and speaks in English as a first language, even though it’s meant to be Arabic.” OT is joined on the show by fellow third-culture cohorts Manilla-born Reem – a Filipino-Iraqi who grew up in Baghdad, Kuwait and Canada – and Akkaoui, who was born in Abu Dhabi to Lebanese parents.
Founded by OT back in 2015, after returning from his post-grad in San Francisco to pursue a career in podcast media, The Dukkan Show explores the idea of displacement born out of OT’s sense that he never really fitted in. “That’s the issue with third-culture kids around the world – the idea of where home is. With that being said; the dukkan [which means ‘shop’ in Arabic] was the place we felt most at home. Whether it’s the local grocery store, a barber shop, a café – it’s where we hung out” OT tells Grazia. Hence the clever name behind his podcast, as the basis behind every local dukkan is to create a strong sense of community within the neighbourhood.
Starting off in a bedroom in Sharjah, the small-scale project has now grown into a multiplatform creative agency known as Dukkan Media, specialising in regional storytelling. Shop local, think global.
Tell us more about the premise behind The Dukkan Show?
OT: Everything about the show was designed to be an authentic experience of who we are. If you’re a third-culture kid and you don’t fit in anywhere, then this is your home – where you can truly be yourself and speak your mind in a safe space without feeling judged or misunderstood. Arabs are constantly misrepresented in Western media, so a big part of the show was to counter that. However, instead of fighting fire with fire, we fought it by just having quality content that people could actually enjoy consuming.
Why did you come up with the hashtag #WelcomeToYourTribe?
Reem: When I first started co-hosting on the show, what OT constantly discussed with our guests was the idea of ‘Where do we belong?’ Yes, it is a podcast about third-culture kids, and yes, we are constantly having those conversations, but we realised that all we were doing in the show was looking for an idea of ‘home’. That became the apex of almost everything we did. We are the kids that fit nowhere and everywhere, so welcome to your tribe.
Akkaoui: It’s a call to action to everyone like us. For people to know that there is a place where they can come and express themselves safely.
The show has a fourth-wall-style of recording. Why was this important?
OT: When I started this show the fourth-wall concept was embedded into it. The way I visualised the show was this experience where me and my buddies are just talking and hanging out and the listener can come in and fill the fourth empty chair in the room. This is why the show begins and ends in the middle of a conversation – it’s as though you’re walking in and you hear this chatter going on and sit down to listen. I wanted the listeners to feel like part of the circle. This plays into #WelcomeToYourTribe because now you’re part of this conversation, this family. It becomes a weekly experience that you get to be a part of, as opposed to radio, which is very artificial.
How do you use your platform to tackle stereotypes and misrepresentation?
Reem: The way that were represented in mainstream media as Arabs is very specific. Men are coded as violent and women as oppressed. We use the show’s platform not to preach but rather to [show] that our authentic selves are a true example for Arabs like us. When you’re authentically yourself, its undeniable how much strength you start to regain.
OT: We want our show to be a voice of positivity and community, because attempting to combat the stereotype will get us nowhere.
Photos: Omar Tartoob