22Sep

Traditional Arab Collaborative Economy Initiatives That Still Exist!

The Collaborative Economy ideas are not new in the Arab World. Throughout history, people practiced sharing and collaboration in their day-to-day lifestyle as part of culture and religious beliefs. People shared food, products and homes among many other things. They also invented a number of traditional Collaborative/Sharing initiatives which are still being adopted today.

 

Jamee’h

An old model of a non-interest crowd-lending. Jamee’h means ‘commit’; small amounts of savings from a number of individuals that are put together and given to one person. The process is then repeated again, usually on a weekly or monthly basis with each member of the group benefiting from the collected amount.

Let’s say, for example, there are ten people willing to join and raise $10,000 for each contributor in the group. To do this, every person should pay $1,000 a month or $250 a week over a period of ten months until this cycle ends. The beneficiaries are decided through a draw or mutual agreement when there’s an individual who needs the money the most.

This kind of collaboration is still very common in the Arab world today. But you can find this type of collaboration happening only between family, friends or friends of friends and very rare between strangers.

 

Wakef

An old-fashioned type land sharing, where people in the same neighborhood crowdfund a land that becomes owned by them to grow crops and share financial returns with each other or use the money for the benefit of the folks living there.

Unfortunately, this kind of collaboration has been reduced to a very few land plots owned by a community due to the rural reconstruction movement.

 

Iftar Tables!  

This sharing behavior is always linked to Islamic education, especially during Ramadan, the fasting month in Islam, and mostly funded by religious associations, charities or individuals. People donate ingredients, money, or help to cook the food, and offer free Iftar meals for fasting people during Ramadan.

Iftar Tables – food sharing, are still a commonly organized in the Islamic countries, and recently President Obama hosts Ramadan Iftar dinner for Muslim Americans at the White House.

Photo credit: sfari.com

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2 comments

  1. Hi Ahmed !

    Very interesting article.
    I made a summary (in french) of the social practices that are similar to some collaborative economy pratices here : http://j.mp/1gMPQic.

    Some similar initiatives in Morocco :
    – “Jamee’h” is called “Daret” in Morocco (meaning something that “goes around”).
    – Landsharing : what you call “Wakef” is close to the “Khammass”. In rural areas in Morocco, people who co-own a land let a “Khammass” (“the fifth”, because he gets paid by taking a fifth of the returns) take care of it, then share the harvesting.
    – “Dayf Allah” (when you host a visitor, similar to airbnb)

    There are many similarities indeed. But not organized, depending on one’s personal initiative, and mostly around religious principles/values. Nonetheless, as you said, these intiatives tend to disappear in arab countries due to the westernization of lifestyles.

  2. Ahmad Sufian Bayram

    Thanks, Youssef! Very interesting how this kind of initiatives spread around the MENA and our culture. It’s also a fascinating how our grandfathers practiced collaboration and sharing as if it part of human natural. The world can learn a lot from this.

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