The co-founders of UAE-based cultural podcast, Kerning Cultures talk about their long distance partnership and shared love for storytelling, the ocean and the Middle East.

ALEX ATACK AND ANTONIE ROBERTSON

GLOBAL GIRLS

Hebah: I’m half Egyptian, half American. Being close to family and heritage was the best thing about growing up between Bahrain, Saudi, Egypt, the UAE, and the States.

I moved to the UAE four years ago, but now live in the US with my husband.

Razan: I grew up between Bahrain, the UK, the US and the UAE. There was a magic to growing up in Abu Dhabi in the early nineties, the city attracted expats from all over the world and everyone knew everyone. It was when I went to college I realised I had a unique childhood.

TAKE ME AWAY

Hebah: My next bucket list destination is Japan. I love their food, and I know from friends it’s unlike any place I’ve ever been. Also, apparently Nintendo has an entire street where you can ride actual Mario Karts.

Razan: It would probably be somewhere like Antarctica. I’d love to see the beauty and serenity of a place like that, virtually untouched by us.

OUR MEET CUTE

We met through Sandbox, which is a global community of cool people under the age of 30 doing cool things. We were very lucky to find each other.

MOVIE NIGHT PICKS

Hebah: I’m obsessed with Oscar-nominated Lebanese film The Insult.

It’s so painfully beautiful and masterfully raises issues no one is courageous to talk about publicly.

Razan: 10 years ago, I watched the film Caramel by Nadine Labaki when I was 21 and living in the US. It was the first Arabic film that spoke to me; I’d never seen such a nuanced, beautiful depiction of issues Arab women face.

NAME GAME

The name Kerning Cultures was a gift from a brilliant advertiser friend who first suggested the name Delta, then called back a few minutes later saying, ‘No, Kerning Cultures. That’s more of a podcast name.’ The name is metaphorical: kerning is a typography process of sizing spaces between letters in a font so you can read the words more clearly and they’re aesthetically pleasing. So, at Kerning Cultures, we manoeuvre the spaces in between cultures through the stories that we tell.

MUM’S COOKING

Hebah: I have a horrible sweet tooth and go days without proper meals, eating only brownies and coffee or ice cream and popcorn. I always crave for moussaka and mahshy made by my mum or aunts.

Razan: Nothing compares to my mum’s Bamyieh, Mouloukhiya, or a prawn machboos. I’m a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, especially his vegetarian dishes.

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Hebah: A listener from Egypt heard our piece exploring the country’s brain drain phenomenon and said,‘I was crying as I was listening to this story; I felt you were telling my own.’ A listener from America sold his motorcycle to fund a plane ticket to visit the Middle East for the first time after our series on the region’s start-up scene.

Razan: I spent some time in the north of France in a make-shift refugee camp at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis to report for our piece Borderless. Spending time with migrants and refugees in their limbo hell affected me in ways I find hard to articulate sometimes.

RETAIL REGRETS

Hebah: I bought a Louis Vuitton wallet a few years ago to fulfil some status need only for the salesgirl to tell me it’s not leather, it’s canvas. I had hoped great leather would justify the price-tag.

Razan: I bought a digital smart moleskin notebook last summer. Seeing my writing on the page manifest on the tablet was exciting but the idea of my thoughts being on the cloud freaked me out so I now stick to pen and paper.

WATER BABIES

Hebah: A few months ago I learned to sail, and I’m obsessed. With motor boats, you’re fighting nature, trying to conquer it to move forward. With sailboats, you’re channelling nature - that’s magical.

Razan: I’ve just recently picked up scuba diving which has been really fun. Being around the sea is important to my peace of mind.