In October of this year, the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENAF) will mark half a decade since its foundation as an intellectual hub at the University of Cambridge for those interested in the Middle East and North Africa. We have come a long way since our founders first sat down in the Junior Common Room of Gonville & Caius College with the idea of establishing a new student society dedicated to further exploring our mutual interest in the MENA region. The Forum has since hosted over 60 speaker events including heads of state, ambassadors, academics and public intellectuals. We have built home at the university for over 5,000 people in the UK and abroad who care about and are interested in the study of the Middle East and North Africa. The highlight of this was when, in the summer of 2018, MENAF led its first ever delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Territories for an on the ground study trip of what is arguably the most high-profile conflict of the MENA region.
At the end of 2019, we began a major expansion of our work. Hoping to translate the momentum of our network and the interest of our following, we established the think tank arm of our Forum, looking to make a deep, positive and lasting impact on the formation of British foreign policy as it relates to the region. Harnessing the curiosity and creativity which Cambridge is world-renowned for, we completed three of our first original research projects, inquiring into potential improvements to the border strategies of MENA countries, evaluating the potential from the formation of a Marshall Plan for the Middle East and explored methods of kinetic warfare in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
We consider Manara Magazine an integral part of this expansion. By featuring the writing of young students and professionals from the UK, the MENA region and across the world, we hope to expand our network of connections and give a voice to those members of ours interested in having their opinions heard. This stands directly in line with our mission to, “bring out the best of Cambridge by synchronising our perspective with a unique, Cambridge-style approach to research”.
Most recently, MENAF launched its News Update service with the contribution of local talent living and working in the MENA region. Our weekly published News Update not only summarises the most important social, political and economic developments pertaining to the region, it also interprets events and highlights areas that our subscribers should pay particular attention to in the immediate future. Our Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Hebrew speakers guarantee that local vernacular sources are consistently featured in our work, making for a truly unique insight into the current affairs shaping the on the ground reality in the Middle East and North Africa.
Alongside these exciting new developments at MENAF, our events team continues to dedicate their time to bringing our followers events on the most pertinent of topics alongside the most qualified and high-profile speakers. Leveraging the opportunities which the current global state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic has provided us with, our flagship events are now conducted online, allowing people to access our events and interact with leading professionals in politics, economics and business from a distance.
As we are preparing for the upcoming academic year, we would like to extend a warm welcome to our members and followers, and all those who have just discovered MENAF. We look forward to building this vibrant community further with you all.
Jay Mens, Shlomo Roiter, Patrik Kurath and Naman Karl-Thomas Habtom
Executive Committee, Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENAF)