Middle East and North Africa region’s favorite pastimes revealed

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Bayt.com poll shows that browsing the internet is among the MENA region’s favorite pastimes

Meanwhile, 34.1% of respondents say they eat out almost every day

According to a recent ‘Rest and Recreation Habits among MENA Professionals’ poll conducted by Bayt.com, the region’s number one job site, people in the MENA region spend a large portion of their time browsing the internet, with a third claiming to spend more than five hours a day surfing the web. The region’s least favourite hobby is shopping (0.2%), less popular than spending time outdoors (2.2%) and watching television (3.8%). 

Outside of spending time with family (claimed as a favourite pastime by 38.8% of poll respondents), the internet is a hot favourite amongst those living in the Middle East and North Africa, with almost 30% of respondents saying that they spend most of their free time on the Internet. Only 4.9% claim to never surf the net for fun, while 30.7% spend a minimum of five hours browsing the web for leisure on a daily basis. A fifth (21.9%) relax online for an hour a day. 

Beside family time and browsing the web, the most popular ways to relax in the region include spending time with friends (8.8%), reading (6.8%), playing sports (4.6%), or enjoying outdoor pursuits (2.2%). The results show that 4.9% claim to have hobbies other than those mentioned above, while a paltry 0.2% state that they prefer to go shopping in their free time. 

In terms of how much money is spent on being entertained, the poll shows that the majority of MENA respondents (42.4%) spend no more than 10% of their annual income on leisure and entertainment, while four out of ten (37.2%) spend between 11-30% of their yearly earnings on leisure and recreation. 

“People in the MENA region seem to be more conservative in their spending, opting for pastimes that are low-cost. The high number of people who spend their time with family and friends is reflective of the values of Middle Eastern culture, while the overwhelming number of hours spent on the internet is definite nod to the increasingly digital age that we live in,” said Suhail Masri, VP of Sales, Bayt.com. “Bayt.com endeavours to provide a comprehensive insight into the habits of the MENA population, in terms of vocational pursuits, recruitment for job seekers and employers, and other varied subjects that deliver a clear image of the region’s status. As an online platform, we also provide Middle Eastern internet users with career-enhancing activities to do while browsing the web, whether or not they are looking for jobs.” 

Bayt.com’s poll also explored other ways in which respondents spend their leisure and entertainment time. In terms of health- and sports-related activities, the overall preference in the MENA is for less active pursuits although 52.7% own a gym membership or have access to a gym, and 51.7% spend time outdoors nearly every day (of which only 18.9% ‘often’ visit public parks and beaches). Three quarters (75.8%) eat out at restaurants or order in regularly, with the majority of these (34.1%) doing so almost daily.

On a cultural level, catching a movie on the big screen is surprisingly unpopular, with 42.6% of respondents stating that they ‘never’ visit a cineplex (as opposed to the 15.6% who do so every week). Watching television is, however, a common pastime: eight out of 10 (78.3%) watch between one-to-four hours of television a day, with 7.8% stating that they watch five or more hours. English programmes are most popular with TV-watchers (according to a 35.4% majority), though 32.2% like to watch Arabic shows, and the preferences of 32.5% are for both languages equally. 

Three clear groups emerged when respondents were asked about attending cultural events, such as concerts, performances, art exhibitions and so on. A quarter (24.8%) claimed to never attend such happenings; 21.6% state that they go ‘less than twice a year’, while 21.2% are frequent attendees with weekly attendances.

Travelling for leisure is something that only a minority of MENA respondents do very frequently, with 64.1% doing so no more than once a year (of which 35% claimed to travel less than once a year).  For those who do travel, the three most popular regions to visit are the Levant (22.3%), the GCC (20.7%), and Europe (15.6%). 

Data for the Bayt.com ‘Rest and Recreation Habits among MENA Professionals’ poll was collected online from December 20,2012 to January 15,2013, with 10,815 respondents covering more than 12 countries in the MENA region.

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