TEDinArabic holds inaugural regional event in Doha, Qatar, featuring pioneering TED Talks in Arabic

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TED and Qatar Foundation Unveil TEDinArabic

TEDinArabic is a joint initiative with TED and Qatar Foundation designed to provide a global platform for thinkers, researchers, artists and change-makers across the Arabic-speaking world. Launched in July 2020, TEDinArabic is TED’s first initiative to amplify ideas, inventions and stories from Arabic-speaking communities. It seeks to inspire solutions that extend across the Arab world and beyond, transcending borders and language barriers.

The event: TED and Qatar Foundation hosted the inaugural TEDinArabic event on December 9, 2021, in Doha, Qatar, featuring renowned speakers who delivered TED Talks in Arabic to a live global audience. This event was the first in a series of TEDinArabic regional events leading up to the TEDinArabic flagship conference in early 2023. The event took place during Qatar Foundation’s WISE 2021 conference, with the theme “Generation Unmute: Reclaiming our Future through Education.” Thousands of educators and thinkers from around the world convened in person and virtually to share their latest contributions and innovations to reimagine educational systems. The event was hosted by Al Jazeera’s Asma Jaber Al Hammadi and attended by Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, the vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation.

Opening remarks: Educational and cultural consultant Mohamad Ali Bahri emphasized the importance of TEDinArabic reaching global audiences while also preserving, treasuring and promoting the cultural legacy of the Arabic-speaking world. “We must speak up so that the world can see us,” he says.

Music: Qatar Music Academy performs alongside a series of interstitials, including Farah Shamma’s “Falastini Ana.” 

The talks in brief:

Mohammed Al-Janahi speaks at the inaugural TEDinArabic event on December 9, 2021, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Qatar Foundation)

Mohammed Al-Janahi, head of outreach at Teach For Qatar

Big idea: Arabic poetry and literature can inspire students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills – not just in languages, but also in mathematics and science.

How? An advocate for the Arabic language and passionate about poetry since childhood, Al-Janahi has incorporated poetry, art and music into his classroom. Using an immersive and artistic approach to learning – inspired by the wondrous history of Arabic poetry and literature – he describes how the language hones students’ critical thinking across all fields. As he puts it: “Our ancestors used poetry in all aspects of their daily lives to tell stories, reflect and express their feelings. Poetry is a tool that is easy to use to create impact and teach complex theories and subjects.” Leading by example, Al-Janahi incorporated music and poetry into his own talk.

Farah Al-Taweel speaks at the inaugural TEDinArabic event on December 9, 2021, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Qatar Foundation)

Farah Al-Taweel, head of 2D Design at Dadu, the Children’s Museum of Qatar

Big idea: Design thinking and innovative teaching methods can empower children and prepare them for the future.

How? According to Al-Taweel, creative learning is the organic and spontaneous process we all experience at different stages of our lives when trying to achieve a goal. It unlocks our abilities and, once achieved, leaves us with a strong desire to experience it again. Children go through this same process: they try to accomplish big goals and ideas daily, despite limited abilities and resources – that’s the design thinking process at work. Through her research at the Qatar Children’s Museum, Al-Taweel developed creative informal methods to help kids develop their brains early through the use of design thinking. We do not want to change the way children think, innovate, or explore new things,” she says. “We seek to prepare and support them to tackle global challenges facing our world.”

Rana Dajani speaks at the inaugural TEDinArabic event on December 9, 2021, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Qatar Foundation)

Rana Dajani, professor at Hashemite University in Amman, Jordan

Bid idea: The importance of reading for fun.

Why? Rana Dajani noticed that many children weren’t reading for fun – an activity that not only creates lifelong learners, but can also shift a child’s mindset from “I cannot” to “I can.” As she says: “I felt it was a crime for a child not to be able to discover their inner potential and discover the world.” This was the impetus for launching We Love Reading, a project whose strategic approach is rooted in inherent motivation rather than external stimuli – a key distinction when it comes to creating and driving social change for a sustainable future. Dajani shows how, by becoming a We Love Reading ambassador, people embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. She shares the stories of Asma, a young Syrian refugee living in Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp; Maria, a retired teacher from Argentina; Nabila, a cancer survivor from eastern Amman; Abdullah, an individual with special needs; and Matovu, a young person from Uganda – all of whom are now making an impact in their communities.

Aziza Chaouni speaks and performs at the inaugural TEDinArabic event on December 9, 2021, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Qatar Foundation)

Aziza Chaouni, civil engineer and architect

Big idea: A model for sustainable living in developing worlds, specifically focusing on Arabian deserts.

How does it work? For hundreds of years, desert living was made possible by the creation of oases through careful land and building management. Now, due to tourism and climate change, that’s all quickly changing: communities are being forced to leave, the desert is creeping in and heritage is being lost. Chaouni aims to reverse the damage through a design approach that incorporates sustainability with social and economic values. In her latest project, she collaborated with local communities and experts in M’hamid, in the city of Fez, that were at risk of being swallowed by the desert – but still barely holding on. Chaouni’s solution?  To build a music school, called Joudour Sahara, using sustainable, local materials – such as rammed earth, stone, wood and bamboo – and an autonomous energy system run on photovoltaic power. Thanks to the project, the desert has stopped trying to eat M’hamid, residents are staying in their homes and their cultural heritage is now thriving. She concluded with a song to M’hamid that was written and performed by the students of Joudour Sahara.

This piece was written by Lobna Hassairi and Souhila Abada.