Creating an Arabic travel guide for the Netherlands

Last summer a group of 22 artists and designers from the Middle East, Netherlands & Egypt collaborated to design the first Arabic travel guide to the Netherlands, which is home to approx 0.1% of the world’s Arab population. This mapping project, initiated by the Mediamatic Foundation – a cultural institution advocating cultural development & technology, resulted in an exhibition and travel guide printed as a supplement in one of Amsterdam’s most circulated dailies.

What’s interesting about projects such as this is that the collaboration of professionals across disciplines and cultures always provides a rich platform for learning and knowledge sharing; giving way to cultural synergies that lead to greater tolerances between societies. Full details of it can be found here, but here’s a roundup of the key features we found quite interesting:

1. The design team had several challenges notably a system for reading two different languages in parallel, each of which has its own reading direction – right to left (Arabic) and left to right (Dutch). But surprisingly the final paper read from right to left.

  • “The next step consisted of deciding on layout elements such as grid and typography, as well as a system for reading two different languages in parallel, each of which has its own reading direction. Arabic reads from right to left, while Dutch reads from left to right. We aimed for finding a solution without resorting to the common practice of separating the two layers of information, thus remaining true to the reading flow of the newspaper where information is highly fragmented. At the end of the day, we opted for a clear hierarchy between the two languages whereby Arabic texts were given the primary importance. Dutch texts remained secondary, and dotted lines were added to assist the Dutch reader in navigating through the different text blocks. This resulted in the whole publication reading from right to left. Which means that any Dutch reader would naturally be inclined to start with the newsletter’s back-cover. For this reason, we had to devise a back-cover that looks as interesting as our actual cover, and a backward reading trajectory that retains the reader’s interest until he/she figures-out the actual reading direction!”

2. Copyright regulations regarding using or redrawing online maps (a crucial guide of any guide) turned out to be much more strict than initially expected, and the maps that were available for sale were either too detailed or too simplified. At the end of a long research process, the team managed to find an acceptable map that was then stylized and reworked to complement the travel guide content.

Below are a few more images via Creative Roots