UAE, Cross-border
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The New (Arab) Good Guys

Peeta Planet co-founder Mohammad Al-Awahdi on how his pioneering travel show is like a delicious home-grown feast after a lifetime of greasy fast food.

Why social TV?

Saudi is the world’s the biggest consumer of YouTube, and the UAE has world’s highest internet and mobile penetration. We’re such big consumers of online content, we owe it to ourselves to produce relevant social content, we all need to represent. But so much content is not relevant to the Middle East—it’s imported from outside and fed to consumers.

It’s like the coffee scene in the UAE. Mocha coffee comes from a port in Yemen, and coffee is a huge part of our history, but 99% of the shops in Dubai and the rest of the Gulf serve American coffee and Italian lattes. And that’s a great metaphor for the media scene here.

What’s your attitude to stereotypes?

In Western media now for decades, Middle Easterners are being pictured as the same, one-dimensional character, and over time that affects how people see and feel about Middle Eastern people. Today it seems like we’re always the bad guys or in need of help; we’re never empowered or controlling our own destiny and fate. So we want to create content where the central protagonists are from the Middle East, 25 – 45 years old, regular ordinary people who dress like me and talk like me.

In our shows we talk with amazing people who are going against the grain. As the conversation progresses, the viewer starts to forget that they’re from Japan or Buenos Aires and that we’re from the UAE. They forget what we look like and just connect with us and the story, and hopefully they see that we’re more similar than different. Period.

For more info – Peeta Planet on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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