This piece has been updated from its original publishing date on November 22, 2012.
As more and more people catch the entrepreneurial spirit in the Arab world, there is an increasing need for innovation-friendly spaces to expand and refine new ideas.
Today, coworking spaces across the region are filling this gap, offering entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startups a comfortable atmosphere to turn ideas into tangible projects.
Below is a list of some of the best coworking spaces in the region, some of which were only launched in the past few months. Let us know in the comments section below if you've made any of these places your working home, or if there are other spaces you enjoy that may not be on the list.
The spaces are listed alphabetically.
In Cairo, 302labs was recently launched by Mostafa Saeed and Wassim Kastenous. The space offers a place for young startups and freelancers to meet, cowork, and brainstorm. Complete with work spaces, meeting rooms, break rooms, free refreshments, and lockers to store your things, the space also boasts an “entertainment room” that has a TV and Xbox for when you really need a break. Users can host business meetings, attend talks and events, as well as hackathons, workshops and other activities in the space.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at 302labs.
Al Maqarr (Cairo)
Al Maqarr opened in July 2012 in Cairo to be a workplace and meeting place for entrepreneurs, students, NGOs and other creatives. The space welcomes people of all backgrounds, offering them a “comfort zone” to work on their projects and collaborate. Coworkers can use the meeting and conference rooms to hold meetings, workshops and talks.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at Al Maqarr.
Located in Beirut, AltCity was cofounded in June 2011 by David Munir Nabti, Dima Saber, Samer Azar, and Julnar Doueik, as well as Wamda Managing Editor Maya Rahal, to support social entrepreneurship. Since it opened, the space has completed heavy renovations but hasn’t lost its fresh industrial feel. AltCity provides a restaurant and café (called Mezzanine, which was recently opened), workspaces, private offices, and a space dedicated for events, exhibits, and workshops for entrepreneurial, activist, and media communities. AltCity also offers lockers and business development services, including the creation of a local business address.
Cloud 5 (Beirut)
Launched by Solidere last November, Cloud 5 offers startups and entrepreneurs access to high-speed internet and a comfortable, convenient workspace in Beirut’s city center. Several startups are currently working there, including Vinelab, Procomix, and Wamda. Its development was led by Richard Azoury, in coordination with Wamda, to be a catalyzing spot for entrepreneurship and collaboration.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at Cloud 5.
Co-working +961 (Beirut)
A few weeks ago, their launch party kicked off with a startup pitching event, making it clear that this coworking space is dedicated to all things startup. A few such companies, including recently launched crowdfunding platform Zoomaal, have already joined this former palace on swanky Sursock street. Entrepreneurs and freelancers can work (or play table tennis) in the decorated indoors rooms or in the garden. Member startups also receive mentorship from the MIT Enterprise Forum and Bader.
DigiHive in Beirut Digital District (Beirut)
Beirut Digital District (BDD) is a project that aims to provide an open innovation platform and space for entrepreneurs over the next five years. The space is a collaboration between Berytech, Zein Real Estate, and the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunication. This digital hub will host accelerators, incubators and startups as they begin to build and implement their ideas. Berytech recently opened their coworking space, DigiHive, where people can work for the day, a week, or for the long-term.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at DigiHive.
The District (Cairo)
Launched in February 2012 in Cairo by Mazen Helmy and Ahmad Maher, The District offers entrepreneurs access to coworking space as well as advice. One unique element is their “Virtual Office;” for a small amount, The District will sit down and discuss your business with you, from your goals and mission to your individual team members, while providing a business address, telephone number and reception services for up to six months. The space offers individual workspaces, larger meeting rooms, two lounges, a library, a kitchen, and a rooftop terrace. With glass-plated desks for note-taking, it's an innovative space that has quickly gained traction in Cairo.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at The District.
Impact Hub Dubai (Dubai)
Impact Hub is a recent but active coworking space that organizes and hosts many entrepreneurship events. As part of an international organization with 65+ hubs around the world, Impact Hub offers access to a network of entrepreneurs, and discounts to other hubs all around the world. The space works on a subscription model based on the hours spent at the Hub or entry to events.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at Impact Hub Dubai.
Launched in early 2012 in Egypt, eco-friendly coworking space icecairo is the third installation of icehubs, an international coworking space brand. Targeting an environmental niche, icecairo focuses heavily on sustainable and green startups, boasting several eco-friendly setups, including recycled furniture, a water purification system, plant irrigation, a hydrogenous fuel cell that produces energy from water, and a composting system to recycle and reuse organic waste. Though it is only just starting, it speaks to a growing interest in environmental sustainability among Cairo’s entrepreneurs.
MAKE Business Hub (Dubai)
Since 2011, MAKE Business Hub has become the go-to place for startups and freelancers in Dubai. Although the hub was recently acquired by CeeCee Holding, after which founder Leith Matthews left to launch group dinner concept Restronaut, the coworking space hasn’t lost its vibrant atmosphere nor its creative cuisine. The space, which serves small teams, individual innovators, and mobile workers, even offers “pitching” booths that entrepreneurs can reserve for meetings, as well as chalkboards dedicated to group brainstorming sessions. The space is customized for mobile workers down to the last detail. Many events are organized by the team including MAKE Ignition, Founders Dinners and a Startup Grind series.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at MAKE Business Hub.
New Work Lab (Casablanca)
Launched this May by Fatim-Zahra Biaz, this coworking space opened right as iNSANE!, Casablanca’s original coworking space, closed its doors. New Work Lab is open to any “new workers” looking to work or just meet new people. The space offers five themed areas: a library-themed space, a sport-themed space, a travel-themed space, a green business space, and, of course, a cafeteria. Biaz organizes regular events, talks, TEDxSalons and labs to foster member creativity.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at New Work Lab.
Oasis500, one of the region's very first tech accelerators, offers a spacious and friendly atmosphere with a series of small meeting rooms, offices, large desk space, and a conference room for entrepreneurs and new startups. The space, which has supported tech startups since 2009, also offers member entrepreneurs invitations to skills training workshops and events. It's a great spot for events in Amman- we held our first Mix n’ Mentor Jordan event here; the space even has a slide descending from the top floor, for those moments when entrepreneurs need to get around quickly or just brainstorm.
WamdaCard members benefit from exclusive benefits at Oasis500.
The Pavilion Downtown Dubai (Dubai)
Founded in 2011, The Pavilion Downtown Dubai is a spacious “non-profit contemporary art space” that provides a place to view, discuss and participate in works by local and international artists. With an open workspace with two art galleries, a café and restaurant, an outdoor lounge, cinema, library, and espresso bar, The Pavilion offers a platform to support the work of rising artists in the region. It's an ideal location for events in Dubai; we held last year’s Mix N’ Mentor Dubai here.
Rasheed22 is a bit different from the others on this list. The Cairo-based hackerspace doesn't have set working hours and relies heavily on the community to keep it open; those who would like to join must call ahead to see if someone can let them in, and must pay a small fee for hourly, daily, or monthly use. The kitchen is open for those who wish to bring their own food, and coffee and tea is available. To rent meeting spaces, users must simply put contribute what they feel is fair into a collection box. Although the coworking space generally depends on members’ donations to stay afloat, it recently launched a crowfunding campaign on Zoomaal to cover costs in 2013.
Shelter in Dubai is a free coworking space, tailored to entrepreneurs and new startups during the early stages of their business development. The location is a decorated warehouse with a comfortable “shelter” built indoors, offering a unique and very cool space to work, study, brainstorm, and innovate. Shelter also provides events and series to target the needs of early stage businesses including panel discussions, workshops, and lectures offered on a monthly basis.
Sirdab Lab (Kuwait)
Sirdab Lab is a startup hub launched in April 2014. It aims at supporting entrepreneurs by offering them access to a network of mentors and investors, providing them with a working space to develop and grow their business, and a platform to educate them through events, workshops and other training programs.
Zee Launch Pad (Amman)
Launched last November in Amman, Zee Launch Pad offers young startups and entrepreneurs a personal workspace within a unique community. With workrooms, multipurpose rooms, and a break room designed for fun, the facility doesn’t have its own staff, allowing entrepreneurs to act as if the space is their personal office, shared with like-minded people who happen to be working on other projects. Zee Launch Pad has an application process for potential new members to ensure that all applicants mesh well with other members and the overall office culture.