DHAHRAN: Hatem Alakeel is the best dressed Saudi podcaster with a heart of gold.
His podcast, Gems of Arabia, which aims to shine a light on “all the shimmering hidden gems of the Arab world”, recently launched its third season with a big change – it’s teaming up with famous British luxury department store Harrods.
It is the first official collaboration in the Middle East between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.
I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue what I have been doing for the past few years and change perception-based stereotypes and elevate Saudi culture and Arab culture.
“Harrods and Gems of Arabia are teaming up for a series of podcasts, on the theme of bringing generations together through culture,” Alakeel told Arab News. “As two institutions established in their own regions, our podcast and Harrods hope to facilitate conversations between guests who excel in their fields and provide a bridge between the two generations in the UK and the Middle East.
“We host these special edition Gems of Arabia from Harrods, Knightsbridge,” he said.
A soft-spoken and articulate host, Alakeel found some of the UK’s most interesting Saudis and other Arabs to interview. The new season brings many surprise guests from the MENA region.
With 18 years of experience, Alakeel first started as a fashion designer with his “Toby” label, modernizing the traditional thobe, and has gracefully embarked on every venture he has undertaken since with his consulting firm. Authenticite brand.
Although Alakeel is proud of his Saudi heritage and Jeddah roots, he is primarily based in Dubai. But no matter where he is geographically, he is always passionate about amplifying stories in the region, no matter where they come from.
For the past four years, he has written an online column in which he highlights changemakers in the region who are shaping the Saudi landscape in positive ways. He knew it was time to try a different platform to further amplify these people’s voices to leverage conversations, so he started the podcast.
It was something that appealed to Harrods.
“For me, Harrods has been an institution that I have always admired since I was a child. It really has that kind of nostalgic feeling for me. I believe the way we were able to connect was through my podcast in my second season, which I did on the Saudi Arabian Cup – it was about legacy,” he said. he declares.
As Alakeel became recognized both online and offline, he felt a responsibility to help foster a thriving ecosystem for creatives in the area or region. He wanted to create the kind of community he wanted to have at the start of his career.
A non-ironic Instagram influencer, he makes sure his posts are in both English and Arabic. He also sincerely tries to bring out the silver lining in every situation.
The person who has been his anchor is his late mother, Seham Arab, who recently passed away.
Although Alakeel lived a significant part of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far from his heritage and never to compromise on his values.
The scent of his beloved mother lingers in Alakeel’s life – literally. Every night, he sprays some of his favorite perfume on his pillow so he can fall asleep in her memory. However, the bond between mother and son goes far beyond smell, which is known to be the strongest sense related to memory.
She was the inspiration for his life’s work and the reason he started his journey trying to discover hidden gems and treasures in the Arab region. Alakeel calls it his first gem. She also introduced him to Harrods.
“I remember my first experience with Harrods when I was at boarding school and my mum sent me a box of riding gear – it was shoes, a hat, and it was riding gear the most impeccable I’ve had, because I was on horseback. horse riding. So from there it snowballed in me to always go there and enjoy them. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do something with them,” he said.
She would have loved his collaboration with Harrods and the way he decided to approach the partnership.
“The approach that I proposed to Harrods is generational and cultural – there is also a generational bridge that is being built. And we have to recognize that a large part of the younger generation, Generation Z, for example, is more vintage-inspired than ever. Millennials have always been so obsessed with brands,” he said.
“So that’s kind of the movement that I’m creating with the podcast – what we’re going to do with Harrods – is to highlight the generational bridges that exist between the two cultures. You know, an idea of how designers progressive Saudis are becoming, how much more exposed they are and how much more we need to see where this is heading. And that’s the kind of conversation we want to have,” he said.
For Alakeel, authenticity is the key word. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves – without excluding Saudis living abroad.
He wants to try to bridge the gap between different generations that seem somewhat disconnected. A podcast seemed like a natural progression to merge all of these elements together. It is a conversational vehicle that will allow the different members of the communities to express themselves.
It’s about creating a community and building it.
“I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue what I’ve been doing for the past few years and change the stereotypes based on perception and elevate Saudi culture and Arab culture,” Alakeel said.
Saudis, and even Arabs, have shopped at Harrods in London for generations. It’s a trusted place to find curated and well-designed products. This season’s podcast promises the same.
“Harrods partners with game changers in the local market; pioneers, designers and entrepreneurs based in the Middle East. The aim is to create a community of like-minded individuals, provide them with a global platform and a wider network of contacts, while enabling Harrods to build relationships with the next generation of talent and support her. Harrods’ partnership with Gems of Arabia is a perfect alignment and a shining example of this work, ensuring that their position in these overseas markets is meaningful and based on cooperation,” said Alakeel.
Access season 3 of the Gems of Arabia podcast empowered by @harrods by logging on to @authenticite_by_hatem_alakeel.