Rabee Zureikat is a pioneering social entrepreneur with a yearning to break out of the urban bubble. Rabee received his education in Marketing and Advertising in Jordan and Lebanon. Back in college, Rabee read a book about the discrimination against the people of rural areas and their suffrage. The book was a wake up call to Rabee, who decided to be a part of narrowing the socio-economic divide in Jordan.
Rabee dedicated time to reach out to the rural areas. He approached a major charity and social services group which helps poor and rural areas by providing them with food and clothing. As soon as he got his driving license, he ventured to rural areas to meet the people there and drove a van loaded with food, clothes, and medicine on his first trip. He felt very uneasy and awkward and thought that it would hurt the rural people’s pride to receive charity, and eventually create a dependency. He decided to stick around until he found a better way of helping the rural people out of poverty.
Rabee learned a lot about their life and culture and realized that he was not a rich man; he was poor in regard to knowledge and culture and had a lot to learn from the inhabitants of rural areas. That is when he decided to start exchange tourism.
Rabee founded the Zikra Initiative to challenge existing social systems in Jordan, by helping marginalized rural communities rediscover their strengths while exposing economically powerful urban communities to new cultural and regional perspective.
Rabee has created a simple, solid, and easily replicable model. In exchange tourism, the tourism revenue generated is invested in the local community according to its needs and preferences. The model also relies on awakening local changemakers using social marketing tools and offering hip and cool activities to attract youth from the city to the rural areas. Exchange tourism also utilizes the assets of the rural communities and gives them a sense of pride in their culture as it is appreciated by the visitors. Rabee’s model of exchange tourism will be franchised in other countries in the Arab world under the name of Zikra, his citizen organization.
In May 2009, Rabee was awarded the prestigious King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement (KAAYIA) and was honored at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.
Rabee Zureikat was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2009.