A new genre in digital entertainment is about to hit our screens bridging the divide between broadcast television and social media. It’s Emirati creators, call it social television, and through it, they will introduce you to people all around the world.
You might know Peyman and Mohamed Al Awadhi as the force behind the Wild Peeta restaurant chain but soon they’ll be household names as the roving restaurateurs behind Planet Peeta.
Their social television concept came up back in 2009, when they were looking to take a well-earned break from their busy lives and started asking for travel tips online.
“What social media has done over the past few years is its connected us with people across the world, locals,” says Mohamed Al Awadhi, “so when we do travel to those cities we connect with those locals and they show us their cities through their eyes. We eat at the places they eat at.”
His brother explains that from that search, their concept of travelling the “ultra-local” way grew.
“Mohamed and I are very much of the type, we love the ultra-local experiences, when we travel, we rarely go to the places you’d find on the sites like TripAdvisor and things like that,” says Peyman Al Awadhi.
“We rarely do the things that are known. We always do the take the roads less travelled as we always say. We felt like that is when you actually see a city and understand the soul of a city. We wanted to share that experience and we call it social travel.”
Naturally, that form of travel relies heavily on access to the right type of technology, explains Maha Abouelenein, Google’s regional head of communications.
“Google acted as a digital concierge so helping them figure out where to go when they were looking for information, to help them navigate through Maps, using Google Translate in countries where they didn’t speak the language.”
Technology may have helped them tackle the tyranny of distance, but they also had to learn how to cross the cultural divide.
It always started a little bit awkward because somebody dressed like this in a foreign country comes across a little bit intimidating and the guest was always wary of what shouldn’t I say and will I offend these people and what happened was with everyone as soon as we started talking, what we looked like and what passports we held just melted away and it was just two people with similar ideas.
Coming from an Emirati upbringing also brought some very distinct advantages.
“We talk about crowdsourcing alot and that’s something that we as Emiratis, we’re very good at doing I mean our leaders consistently do that with everything that they do, they run the cities and the country that way,” says Mohammed, “and now we’re doing that on a very small scale on a tv show and I tell you what this is the future of TV.”
Peyman says their goals is to tempt us away from package tours and “sanitised” travel that leaves you disconnected from your surroundings.
“You travel to the same cities, you visit the same monuments,” says Peyman, “you probably will not eat local food, you’ll probably eat at a fast food franchise and the only locals that you will meet will work in hospitality industry.”
Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 14 April 2013