Googling 2015

What dominated online search activity in the Middle East this year? IMAGE COURTESY GOOGLE

Deaths, divorces and destruction dominated much of the region’s online search activity


As another year draws to a close, the world’s leading search engine, Google, revealed the world’s most searched topics of 2015 in an online report. November’s Paris attacks topped the list with over an unprecedented 897 million searches, while Star Wars’ long-awaited new film was googled more than 155 million times—it still dominates worldwide trends.

Each region, however, had its own distinct list of Google trends. Newsweek Middle East reviews the most searched topics from across the region.

United Arab Emirates

The number one event googled in the UAE was the passing of Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the eldest son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE, prime minister and ruler of Dubai. According to the official report, he died of a heart attack at the age of 33 on September 19.

Nepal’s earthquake was the second most searched event in the country. The tragedy killed over 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000 in April. With a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale, it became the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake.

The UAE’s most googled trends also included the November attacks on Paris and the January attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

Saudi Arabia

The kingdom’s top search of 2015 was Saud Al Faisal, a Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the royal family, who died on July 9 at the age of 75. Al Faisal served as a foreign minister from 1975 to 2015, making him the world’s longest- serving diplomat.

His wasn’t the only death that was widely searched in the kingdom. Television presenter Saud Al Dosari’s death at the age of 46 in Paris also garnered attention. Dosari, who was best known for his work for the Middle East Broadcasting Center, died of a heart attack.

Despite the doom and gloom, there were some bright spots in Saudi Arabia’s Google search index. The Turkish TV series Güneşin Kızları (Daughters of Sun), became very popular among Saudis, garnering much online searches.


Similarly to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Egypt witnessed several prominent deaths that induced some to turn to Google. Egyptian actress Faten Hamama’s passing on January 17th at the age of 83 topped the list of items googled.

Famed actor Omar Sharif’s death came second on the list. The Academy Award nominee, Sharif was best known for his appearances in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Funny Girl (1968) to name a few of his Hollywood movies. He died on July 10, also at the age of 83.

The opening of the new Suez Canal worth $8 billion, was the top search hit in Egypt. The addition of the 35-kilometre-long second shipping lane to the existing 164-kilometre-long canal was completed in July and is believed to be a big step in rebuilding Egypt’s economy.


The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 dominated India’s Google trends. The sport event was the 11th Cricket World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29. India, the defending champion from the previous tournament in 2011, lost in the semi-finals to Australia, who went on to win the Cup.

Among the most googled Indians were Bollywood actors Salman Khan, who was found guilty and sentenced to five years for a 2002 hit-and-run case; Shah Rukh Khan, as the biggest movie star in the world; and Sunny Leone, the former adult movie star who retained the top position as the most searched female celebrity for the fourth year in a row. Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone took the second and third spots to round off the top female actors googled.


The ICC World Cup was also among the top Google searches in Pakistan, though not to the same extent as in India. Pakistan’s video portal,, topped the list.

Among the top googled Pakistanis were British Pakistani journalist Reham Khan and supermodel Ayyan Ali. Khan was in the spotlight twice this year, firstly for marrying former cricketer and politician Imran Khan and, 10 months later, for her divorce. Ali, meanwhile, was in the news for reportedly trying to smuggle $500,000 from Islamabad to Dubai. She was arrested at the airport with cash on her but has plead not guilty to all charges.

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