Sahar Esfandiari


Iranian-British writer with an expertise in the Middle East and its diaspora.



Exploring home and heritage through Iranian tea rituals - AZEEMA

Sahar Esfandiari meets Sheyda, an inspiring Iranian small-business owner who took the tea rituals of her Persian heritage and grew it into a beautifully authentic brand, focusing on family, home, and exploring notions of displacement, whilst scrutinising the Western imperial tea industry.

Meet Nikki Meftah and Dima Abdul Kader, the founders of Emergeast - AZEEMA

Written by Sahar Esfandiari In 2014 Nikki Meftah and Dima Abdul Kader founded Emergeast, the first online art gallery dedicated to celebrating and supporting emerging and mid-career artists from the WANA region. At the heart of Emergeast's work is a desire to highlight authentic storytelling from the region.

Musician Intibint On Dual Identities, Defying Family, & F*** It Moments

While studying for her masters in Migration and Development Studies and applying for jobs in the humanitarian field, Yemeni-British singer songwriter Intibint came to the realisation that the career path she wanted to follow was in music - an unconventional decision that went against the grain of familial expectations.

Meet The Middle Eastern Food Bloggers Changing Attitudes To Veganism

A growing number of food bloggers with roots in the Middle East are unravelling misconceptions and stigma around veganism. Middle Eastern diets across the region are typically rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, but adopting a fully vegan or plant-based diet is deemed radical and out of the ordinary for most people.

Middle East Eye
'Iranian women are pursuing their dreams': New book challenges western stereotypes

Maryam Kazemzadeh is known in Iran for her groundbreaking work as a photojournalist on the frontlines of the Iran-Iraq war. Documenting the devastating eight-year war in the 1980s that left both countries deeply scarred, Kazemzadeh was the first female photojournalist in Iran and is famed for caring for injured soldiers on the frontlines as she worked.

'Telling our own stories': Inside Iraq's first independent film festival

Dedicated to showcasing the most exciting work from emerging and established Iraqi filmmakers, the Independent Iraqi Film Festival (IIFF) is the first of its kind. Running for a total of eight days from 21-28 August 2020, the festival programme will screen a total of 13 films, as well as host talks featuring Habibi Collective and, all accessible to audiences online for free via the IIFF platform.

Reclaiming Rumi: How Islam was erased from the Persian poet's work

In recent years, Rumi has become a household name in the West, and work attributed to his name has received unparalleled recognition in popular culture. Rumi was even named the best-selling poet in the US in 2014. Work attributed to the 13th-century Muslim scholar and poet is frequently quoted in the media by celebrities and public figures, such as Ivanka Trump.

Meet Philip Juma: The London chef celebrating Iraqi culture through food

Reflecting on his mixed English-Irish-Iraqi background, Juma recalls fond memories of his childhood growing up in London, eating traditional Iraqi dishes on special occasions. "Dolma, kubba, mezze, leg of lamb, rice with pine nuts and sultanas, I remember so many beautiful spreads," Juma told The New Arab.

A new future: How coronavirus is pushing Middle East art online

The art world is no exception, with leading international art fairs and exhibitions postponed with no certain reschedule dates, and independent galleries and museums forced to temporarily close their doors to visitors. Unsurprisingly, individual artists, gallery owners, and cultural practitioners are still reeling from the damaging effects.

Middle East Eye
Tehran's little secret: The cafe where disability is no barrier to talent

TEHRAN - As Mehdi Khakyan's hands move skilfully across the piano keys, the soft chatter in the room subsides to hone in on the melody of Sultan-e-Ghalbha, a well-loved Iranian classic. Salar Mohammady, the manager, trainer and head barista, is managing orders behind the coffee bar, while 19-year-old Ariya Azad, smiling, carefully serves aromatic cups of rose-infused tea to a table of customers.

Culture Trip
An Introduction to Iran's Saqqakhanah Art Movement

The term Saqqakhanah was first used to refer to a contemporary art movement in Iran which arose in 1962, and is largely acknowledged as the first culturally specific modernist art movement. Works and artists belonging to the Saqqakhanah movement centre themselves around influences from traditional Iranian folk culture.

Art Around: Tehran

TEHRAN- It's no secret that Iran has a rich artistic heritage. Renowned for its traditional crafts such as calligraphy, mirror work, miniature painting and carpet making, its art falls nothing short of the above. This history forms the backdrop to the contemporary arts and culture scene in Tehran, a bustling, metropolitan hub for the arts in the region.

Regional Representation at the 91st Annual Academy Awards

The Academy Awards, more commonly referred to as the Oscars, are highly prestigious awards granted for artistic and technical excellence in the film industry. Throughout the years, Middle Eastern filmmakers and actors have enjoyed many a success at the awards, from twice winning Best Foreign Language film winner Asghar Farhadi to Omar Sharif 's nomination for Best Supporting Actor back in 1963.

Culture Trip
A Breakdown of Tarof in Iran, and How to Navigate it

Tarof can take many shapes and forms, but you can think of it as a sort of verbal duel of sorts, or a waltz of words. At best, it may result in fighting over the bill at a restaurant, and at worst, it might leave you seriously offending people as you go about your travels.

Culture Trip
Meet the Man Traveling Across Jordan Bringing People Books

Kawon, Madaba's First Bookshop With the city's oldest signs of settlement dating back to the Bronze Age, Madaba is incredibly rich in history, and is best known for its long tradition of Mosaic making. Nestled at the end of a series of quaint streets in the town lies Kawon, the city's first and only bookshop.

Business Insider
15 everyday things you didn't know were invented in the Middle East

The Middle East is usually known for its food, culture, and its involvement in recent troubled history, but most do not know about the region's innovative past. Coffee, clocks, and soap are just some of the inventions you may not know originated in the Middle East.

Culture Trip
11 Things People Miss When They Leave Iran

Family and friends Family is really at the very heart of Iranian life and culture, making one of the hardest things about leaving the country the people you end up leaving behind. Seasonal fruits and vegetables Unlike in some parts in the world, the selection of fruits of vegetables on offer in the Iranian markets are generally synchronised with the seasons.

Culture Trip
9 of The Best Art Galleries in Tehran, Iran

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, also known as TMoCA, is one of the largest galleries in Iran and houses a large collection of both Iranian and international works. Included in the museum's collection are works by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Dalí, Bacon, Pollock, Monet, Munch, Moore and Warhol, among many others.

Culture Trip
10 Inventions You Didn't Know Were Iranian

Human Rights The Cyrus Cylinder has been historically recognised as the the world's first universal charter of human rights. Created in 534 BCE, the Cyrus Cylinder is constructed out of clay and inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform script, and predates the Magna Carta by one millennium.

Culture Trip
How to Survive a Jordanian Wedding

Wedding ceremonies, wherever in the world they may be, are windows into cultural traditions and customs. In Jordanian culture, as well as being a great excuse for a party, a wedding symbolizes and celebrates the coming together of two families. It is also an important remembrance of ancestry and heritage.

Culture Trip
8 Stereotypes All Iranians Hate

Iranians are Arab Contrary to what many believe, the people of the Middle East do not all share the same ethnicity. Iran has an incredibly diverse ethnic makeup of people within its borders, with the largest ethnic group being Persians.

Middle East Eye
Iranian artists revisit their relationship to a contested past

This month marks 40 years since the Iranian revolution, an anniversary which has prompted many to turn their attention to Iran and discuss historical events and current realities. Spanning over two floors of London gallery The Mosaic Rooms, When Legacies Become Debts is a group exhibition of contemporary Iranian artists revisiting their relationships to a recent, tumultuous past.

Culture Trip
Why Do Bedouin Women Have Facial Tattoos?

The art has faced a huge decline from the 1930s onwards, and nowadays it is rare to see the striking face of a tattooed Bedouin woman in Jordan and the Middle East.

Culture Trip
An Art Lover's Guide to Jordan

Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts should be first on your list to visit if you're looking for a comprehensive insight into the history of contemporary and Islamic art from the Middle East.

Culture Trip
Jordan's Top 10 Must See Contemporary Art Galleries

Art Gallery, Museum, Park The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts should be the first on your list to visit if you're looking for a comprehensive insight into the history of contemporary and Islamic art from the Middle East. The gallery is housed in two buildings which are separated by Muntaza park in Jabal Al Weibdeh.

Culture Trip
The Story Behind the Dead Sea's Prophecies

The Prophet Ezekiel The prophet Ezekiel is a prophet recognised across all three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, as well as in the Bahai faith. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel is the central protagonist in 'the book of Ezekiel', and prophecies about what he considers to be the approaching of the end times.

Culture Trip
How to Survive a Jordanian Wedding

Wedding ceremonies, wherever in the world they may be, are windows into cultural traditions and customs. In Jordanian culture, as well as being a great excuse for a party, a wedding symbolizes and celebrates the coming together of two families. It is also an important remembrance of ancestry and heritage.

Capernaum: A Story of Hope Amidst Chaos

Following its premiere at Cannes film festival back in May 2018, Nadine Labaki 's has fared exceedingly well in the international circuits, picking up a number of prizes and a nomination at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film.

Artists' Pets

There are many theories as to why artists such as Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse kept animals as some of their closest companions. Not only do animals often exhibit characteristics such as independence, rebellion and an air of sass- all personality traits which can also be attributed to many artists themselves- but animals can also be a source of much serenity and comfort in an otherwise hectic and harsh world.

Meet the Woman Bringing Yemeni Food to the London Brunch Scene

By day, Londoner Fatma Al-Baiti is employed as a civil servant in Westminster. Outside of working hours, she takes on a very different role. A food blogger and entrepreneur, Al-Baiti recently founded Meet Me at Fatma's, a pop-up borne out of a love for food and her desire to introduce others to Yemeni culture.


Business Insider
A British rapper screamed 'F--- Boris' and held up a fake severed head of the UK prime minister...

The British rapper Slowthai held up a plastic head resembling that of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and shouted "F--- Boris" during his performance at the Mercury Prize awards in London on Thursday night. His energetic performance was broadcast by the BBC as part of the prestigious music awards ceremony, which crowns the best British or Irish album of the past year.

Al Bawaba
Who are the Howaitat Tribe and What Was Their Response to the Killing of US 'Green Beret'...

Jordanian soldier Ma'arik al-Tawayha was sentenced this week to life imprisonment with hard labour for shooting dead three American soldiers in the al-Jafer military base in Ma'an back in November 2016. Al-Tawayha, who belongs to the large and influential Howaitat tribe, was serving at the base when a convoy of vehicles carrying American 'Green Beret' trainers arrived at the entrance of the base.

Al Bawaba
25m statue of Saddam Hussein to be built in Jordan | Al Bawaba

According to a number of Arabic sources , the biggest statue of Saddam Hussein in the Middle East will be erected in Jordan next Spring (2018). The solid bronze statue will reach over 25m high and will show Saddam standing upright in his military uniform with a gun strapped tightly to his waist.

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
Opinions: The Effects of Political Denaturalisation in Bahrain

Having a nationality is something that most people take for granted, and it is difficult to imagine life without one. Being a citizen guarantees you maximum protection under the law, economic rights and entitles you to basic social and welfare benefits. Effectively, citizenship ensures that as an individual you can live securely within the constructs...

Culture Trip
Did You Know the Persian Cheetah Is Racing Towards Extinction?

The Persian cheetah, also known as the Asiatic cheetah, once roamed over the grasslands of India, Pakistan, Russia and Iran. Despite concerted efforts to protect this magnificent wild cat, the last of the species are now located exclusively in Iran with numbers estimated as low as 50 as of September 2017.

Al Bawaba
Trump couldn't ban Muslims so he banned their electricals instead

The announcement concerning the ban on electricals was first released through a tweet posted by Royal Jordanian Airlines. (Twitter) Today we found out that 'secret US authorities' have enforced a ban on passengers across 8 Muslim majority countries, prohibiting them from carrying electricals any bigger than a mobile phone on flights to and from the US.


Culture Trip
The Best Diving Spots in Aqaba

Wreck of Cedar Pride The Wreck of Cedar Pride is the most famous dive site in Aqaba and definitely a must-do. It consists of an 80 meter long cargo ship, sunk by the late King Hussein about 30 years ago. Resting on a bed of two coral gardens, it is full of enchanting marine and coral life.

Culture Trip
The Best Places in Iran For Solo Travel

Isfahan is a popular destination for tourists, making it one of the most well-adapted cities for solo travellers. Another bonus of heading here is, of course, its magnificent sights, which are among the most impressive in the country.

Culture Trip
11 Places You Just Can't Skip if You're Visiting Iran

Tehran Grand Bazaar The bazaars in Iran are said to be the heart of Persian culture and commerce, and the Grand Bazaar in Tehran is no exception. You will find anything and everything you could possibly want here, from carpets and fabrics to everyday homewares and jewellery.

Culture Trip
How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Iran in Two Weeks

Day 1 -Tehran If you're flying into the country then chances are you will be landing in Tehran at the Imam Khomeini Airport. Take a bus or taxi from outside the airport to central Tehran to your hotel or accommodation of choice.

Culture Trip
11 Dishes to Eat When You Are in Iran

Also known as 'Abgoosht', this meat and bean broth dish dates back hundreds of years. It is essentially a stew made up of lamb and chickpeas with a tomato base. It is usually served in a stone dish called a dizi - hence the name.

Culture Trip
The Best Museums to Visit in Jordan

The Jordan Museum Located in the area of Rasl Ayn in downtown Amman, the Jordan Museum presents the history and cultural heritage of Jordan in an accurate yet intriguing way throughout its galleries. 1.5 million years of Jordanian history and archaeology is housed here, starting from the Palaeolithic age to the modern day.

Culture Trip
The Most Romantic Winter Getaways in Jordan

Experience the Wadi Rum desert A weekend in the desert with your loved one is the perfect way to detach from the pressures of everyday life. Spend some quality time star-gazing under the night sky, appreciating the sound of uninterrupted silence.

Culture Trip
11 Crazy Things To Do in Iran Before You're 30

From the curious natural wonders of Lake Maharloo to the ancient Zoroastrian towers of silence, there are many crazy places to visit in Iran. If you're the adventurous type then this spectacularly diverse and culturally rich country should be next on your list of places to head.

Culture Trip
The Best Things to Do in Amman, Jordan

For the more active traveller, there are many outdoor activities, such as hiking and trekking, outside of the capital, but if you haven't got the time for a day trip or the weather is not being your friend, then Climbat is the perfect destination.Located on the fringes of the city in Na'ur, Climbat has facilities for indoor rock climbing and bouldering, but make sure that you call them in advance to book your place to avoid disappointment.

Culture Trip
A Book Lover's Guide to Jordan

Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation and Library The Shoman Library located close to 1st Circle, houses an extensive collection of book titles from across all genres and subject matters. Visitors must have a library card in order to check any of the books out, however you are fine to enter the library freely as a guest and read to your hearts content until closing time.

Culture Trip
18 Instagrams That Will Make You Fall in Love With Jordan

The desert castles of Jordan are a must-visit for those with an interest in the history and archeology of the region. As a well-preserved testimony to the Umayyad period, Qasr Amra dates all the way back to the 8th Century. For the more active traveler, Jordan is home to a host of hiking trails located along its most stunning landscapes.

Culture Trip
The Best Syrian Restaurants in Amman

Restaurant, Middle Eastern, Lebanese, $$$ Naranj is known in Amman to be the most authentic restaurant specialising in Syrian cuisine. There are many speciality dishes available on the menu, including sour cherry kebabs and 'Sayadiyeh', a famous fish and rice dish.

Culture Trip
A 7-Day Travel Itinerary to Iran

Upon landing in Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport, take a taxi from the airport into the city. The journey will take you approximately an hour depending on the traffic. Tehran is a vibrant and lively city, and there is a lot of culture to be soaked up.

Culture Trip
20 Photos That Will Make You Change Your Mind About Iran

In 2002, the then US President George W. Bush, accused Iran of being along 'The Axis of Evil'. Following this, images most synonymous with Iran were either of violence and protest, or of a backward and barren land next door to the war-torn country of Afghanistan.

Culture Trip
A Fitness Lover's Guide to Jordan

Jordan is incredibly diverse in landscape, boasting green rolling hills in the north and the hot wadi rum desert in the south, as well as everything else in between. A great way to explore this landscape and get some exercise at the same time is to hike around the country.

Culture Trip
A Guide to Getting Taxis in Amman

There are two main choices you have when it comes to taxis in Amman, your first and most obvious choice being the yellow taxi, which you can find driving around the city and hail down whenever the need arises.

Culture Trip
The Most Unique Experiences You Can Only Have in Jordan

Snorkel in the clearest of waters in the Red Sea The seaport town of Aqaba sits at the southernmost point of Jordan and is home to one of the best snorkelling and diving coastlines in the world, with many centres and professional instructors catering to these sports.

Culture Trip
The Best Places to Buy Souvenirs in Amman

Wild Jordan Center As part of the socioeconomic development program for communities in the area, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan hosts various workshops, which take place in and around different nature reserves in the country, benefitting the rural areas.

Culture Trip
Top 10 Places to Learn Arabic in Amman

The Misba Centre is one of the more unique language institutions in Amman. Focusing on spoken Arabic in the Jordanian dialect, they teach using the 'Growing Participatory Approach' (GPA), whereby the student and teacher interact with various objects and verbs. This stimulates instant communication and enables students to develop familiarity with a lot of vocabulary.

Culture Trip
15 Reasons You Should Visit Jordan at Least Once in Your Life

With a population of only 10 million, some people might think that Jordan has little to offer as a travel destination. However, most travellers who choose to spend time in the country are surprised at the diversity and staggering beauty of it and will leave feeling touched by the generosity and kindness of its people.

Culture Trip
How to Live on a Budget in the Arab World's Most Expensive City

According to the report, Amman is more expensive than Beijing, Luxembourg, Berlin, Stockholm, Rome, San Francisco, Madrid, Miami, and many other cities. Whether you are living and working in Amman or just travelling for a short time, here are our tips for how to live on a budget whilst still making the most of what the city has to offer.