Emirati brothers Peyman and Mohamed Al Awadhi travel the world discovering stories and communities using the power of social media. Their Dubai One TV show Peeta Planet is driven not by directors or their choice of destination, but by the show’s thousands of followers on social media. The brothers have visited 24 countries in two years for the show, taking the road less travelled. In a new initiative with Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce and marketing (DTCM), Peyman and Mohamed are now encouraging the Instagram generation to see Dubai through a different filter.
What exactly is social travel?
It’s about connecting with people who live in the place you’re visiting and seeing the city through them. It’s a different way to travel. If for example you’re an artist visiting Tokyo, then you can connect with another artist via social media and tell them that you want to see the city from their point of view – see where they hang out, where they eat, etc. We meet up with artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and techies all the time, and we try go off the beaten path a little bit.
How did the collaboration with DTCM come about?
We came up with the idea to make a Peeta Planet episode for the #MyDubai project, which is an Instagram-based initiative for locals and residents to take pictures of what they feel represents their Dubai and to share it with the world. We wanted to build on that and make a video of Dubai, which is what we presented to DTCM. We chose 30 prominent social media users here in the emirate and asked each of them to put together a one-day itinerary of six things to do in the city. It had to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, an adventure, a cultural activity and, lastly, something chosen by the participant. The last category was open, it could be anything they wanted. We put the 30 itineraries to the public vote on social media and the top 12 formed the series that we filmed. Since social travel is all about people, we also asked our followers to vote for their top 30 Instagrammers worldwide. The top 12 were then flown into Dubai to experience the 12 winning itineraries. We just finished filming Vicky Navarro, an Instagrammer from Mexico with 600,000 followers. She experienced the itinerary created by Omar Samra, the first Egyptian to complete the Seven Summits challenge – climbing the highest peaks on the seven continents. We started with a trek in Hatta followed by breakfast at The Archive in Safa Park. We then walked around the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood to experience Old Dubai and had dinner at Bu Qtair near the Burj Al Arab in Jumeirah. We ended the night with a walk around Dubai Marina.
Why does the concept of social travel work here in Dubai?
We’re very cultured in Dubai and I’m not sure if many people take advantage of that. We have so many communities here and they’re very strong. You grow up learning languages and cultures easily and tasting different cuisines because we grow up with so many different nationalities. Peeta Planet now has more than one million followers on Google Plus and 13,000 on Instagram and Twitter, and I think a lot of people really want to discover Dubai in a unique way.
What do you want viewers to learn from the show?
The show is about us, two Arabs who travel the world. There’s a lot of misrepresentation of Arabs in the media and a reason for this is that the stories are not told by Arabs. We want to tell our own story. We want people to know that while we dress a certain way, in our kanduras, we are just like everybody else.
You were born and raised in Dubai. What is your favourite part of the city?
Karama. It has so much soul. There are so many communities living in the area. You can travel the world just by being in Karama. I’m there three days a week – I go to have Ethiopian food at Zagol, Indian snacks at Urban Tadka, or to eat Sudanese food. It’s amazing.
How can the community get involved with Peeta Planet?
Go online and check out the itineraries, discover some of the city’s hidden gems. Get to know the people in your area, you never know where it might take you.
Peeta Planet airs on Dubai One in January 2015. To see the itineraries visit www.peetaplanet.com.