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Staying up to Date

I’m often asked what newspapers I read, and what other sources of information I use to stay up to date with developments in the Middle East and the latest initiatives in global financial regulation.

Apart from the Financial Times I have a basic list of newspapers that I try to look at every day, even if only briefly. Top of the list is the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds al-Arabi (http://alquds.co.uk) that has the best breadth of coverage and an intensely Arab perspective. At a minimum, I pull up the pdf version of the front page, to see what the Arab world considers the most important stories of the day; but I always try to delve into the inside pages because Al-quds will be carrying articles on countries and subjects that aren’t featuring in the western press.

Second most important is the Dubai-based news aggregator zawya (www.zawya.com). You can search for stories by country and also by sector, so I start with their sections on financial markets and Islamic banking, and sometimes take a quick look at a couple of individual countries. Some of their material is available only to paying subscribers but most is free.

Then I’ll look at some of the newspapers based in the Middle East. The Daily Star of Lebanon is good (www.dailystar.com.lb) – you can keep up to date with the latest Byzantine twists of Lebanese internal politics and they also have quite a good Middle East business section. The Gulf News, based in Dubai, gives a good round-up of GCC news and its “News” Tab has a section dedicated to Yemen.

For Egypt, I use al-Masri al-Youm’s English site (www.egyptindependent.com) but also look at the front page of al-Shorouk, in Arabic, to make sure I’m not missing anything. (www.shorouknews.com) Whenever I’m in Egypt I like to sit in a café and read Al-Ahram Hebdo, the weekly French newspaper that is part of the state-owned Al-Ahram stable. It appears on a Wednesday and its reporting is more robust than that of its weekly English sister. I occasionally browse it online. (http://hebdo.ahram.org.eg).

The Maghreb is difficult. For Morocco I look at L’Economist, in French (www.leconomiste.com) but have not yet found a good daily or weekly overview of Maghreb news.

I remain a big fan of Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), but of course I’m biased, having spent five very happy years there writing the financial news earlier in my career. (www.mees.com) I generally keep away from the Washington D.C.-based think tanks – much, though not all of what they write has a political agenda behind it. But I do like Sada Journal, which is published by the Carnegie Endowment and has short articles about current political topics, and a collection of news articles in both English and Arabic (www.carnegieendowment.org/sada). I also like the U.S. Institute of Peace, which offers a weekly email bulletin of its news and research.

Of course, ther are numerous reports published by banks and brokerages in the Middle East, and many do a “daily brief’ that you can sign up for. I’ve unsubscribed from most of those that I used to get, simply because one has to be realistic about how much time one is going to spend reading these things – I found that my in-box was becoming clogged with hundreds of unread “daily briefs”! That said, the Egyptian brokerage Beltone does a good, short, early morning round-up of Middle East financial news, which is easy to read on a Blackberry.