Purpose: The purpose of this special issue is to advance discussions on how the richness, complexities and challenges of the Middle East and Africa (MEA) context can contribute to the understanding of under-researched, as well as newly emerging, phenomena within the service research field. Design/methodology/approach: This special issue of the Journal of Services Marketing consists of eight articles that focus on different service research topics emerging from the MEA region. The eight papers cover a variety of research methods (e.g. interviews, focus groups, ethnography, case study, survey), participants (e.g. customers, executives, households, refugees, human trafficking survivors, NGO leaders, government officials), countries (e.g. Zambia, Turkey, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Senegal, Lebanon) and service industries (e.g. health care, finance, hospitality, faith-based services). Findings: This editorial provides background information on the MEA context and proposes a unique research agenda for MEA development with a portfolio of intriguing research questions and inspiring opportunities for further research. Specifically, the editorial highlights six of the most promising and unique avenues for service research in the MEA context by considering the diversity and variations between the MEA nations: cultivate service inclusion; tackle service corruption and designing for justice; climate protection to mitigate further instability and conflict; closing the gap in digital technology: opportunities and challenges; prioritize essential service sectors (education, health care and tourism); and eradicate “service” poverty. Originality/value: This special issue is a first attempt to explore the MEA region from a service research perspective. The editorial discusses unique challenges and opportunities from theoretical and managerial points of view and calls for embracing this region as the new frontier for service researchers.