Features, Main Story

Reem Hameed: The urban culture, the Dukkan, the courage

Have you ever considered making a video series of good news for your mother because you might not see her while the whole world spins into a pandemic? Well, Reem Hameed has and that’s exactly what the entrepreneur, media executive and podcast host did through the good good. 

“My mom is a frontliner. Our whole lives she taught us that taking care of other people was what is important. I did this so that she has a place to go online every week and hear that good things are still happening in the world,” Reem says. 

Persistent in her pursuit of understanding and shaping culture, Reem is best known as the co-host of the “The Dukkan Show”, one of the Middle East’s leading podcasts on culture and society. She is also the co-founder of Dukkan Media, the mother company that produces the show, as well as the CEO and co-founder of Collective, a company focused on regional content creation.

“The Dukkan Show” is a pioneer in the regional media space and has built a tribe of third culture kids around the familiarity and comfort of having conversations with friends at the small corner shop, or dukkan in Arabic, of your community. The show has a distinct urban flavor and covers topics ranging from belonging, identity, culture, society to mental health, and much more. 

Omar Tom (OT) originally founded the show in 2017 out of his bedroom, and together with co-hosts Reem and Akkaouiz, the trio has expanded into the multi-dimensional creative platform that is Dukkan Media. 

As an Iraqi-Filipino-Canadian, who is also bi-religious, Reem says, “I live my life on the fence. By the ritual of being a hybrid, and the reward of not having a homogenous background, I’ve been able to see and navigate and shapeshift between both sides.”

She attributes her confidence to her teenage self, who had to move to Canada from post-Gulf war Iraq and overcome many turbulent circumstances to find herself and the courage she needed to take an undetermined trajectory. 

“I had to make a decision about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to contribute,” says Reem, who at the time was a law student who spent the years until graduation feeling like an imposter. 

“On the first day, the Dean said ‘you are Canada’s finest,” and I felt nowhere near like Canada’s finest, I didn’t even know if I was Canadian,” she says. “When I decided to become a businesswoman, it was when I knew I wanted to be in the arts and culture.” 

Over the years, her work across different communities and countries opened her up to the possibility of businesses that create change in community and society. “I realized that the future is held by entrepreneurs because they hold so much potential and innovation.” 

As a female executive, she was often the only woman in many board rooms, and it started to weigh on her as the years went by. “I choose partners on the merit of their work, and I believe that I’m chosen on the merit of my work, and in that space gender is irrelevant,” she says. 

“When you make things about the merit of their work, you tend to see women rise because they don’t have that ceiling; you’ll find that part-time moms tend to work harder and far more efficiently cause they’re so organized and their life depends on it,” she adds. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing changes in daily life everywhere forced her to take a step back from being someone who always does so much, taking time to reevaluate her strategies to build businesses that are scalable and recession-proof. 

“There are very few legacy businesses in the Arab world because we’re transient, we’re nomadic and because we have had histories of war in so many places, you’re just hoping to survive and I would like us to move past that,” says Reem.

As a self-proclaimed relentless optimist, she is afraid of becoming jaded or disillusioned by the world, which often forces her to take a step back from social media to rediscover the nuances of ego and what motivates us. 

“Ego in the world of online and business is a very damaging thing to have, and sometimes you don’t know what it looks like. At some points I didn’t…know if I was doing something to feed my ego or truly for the cause of changing the Arab narrative in the world,” she says. 

Reem is a big believer in curating a “healthy diet of content” as a part of a healthy lifestyle instead of holding onto the pockets of anxiety social media creates within us. 

Today, Reem continues to pursue new endeavors with the aim of building culturally influenced legacies.  “I want to say that I was here in some way and that I tried to do it differently, maybe it didn’t work but at least there was a woman at the front just trying.”

Follow Reem and her co-hosts on Instagram @dukkanshow