“A city’s story is created by its people. It’s time to join together and show the world how 2.1 million people create one remarkable story… Together we will create the world’s first autobiography of a city.” – HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai
HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s sentiments are aimed at sharing the vibrancy, local colour and energy of Dubai. It is not surprising that once this smart initiative was launched, it quickly gained momentum and inspired both residents, citizens and tourists to join in sharing their experiences in dubai via the hashtag #MyDubai.
Emirati brothers, Mohamed and Peyman Parham Al Awadhi are largely known for their role as cultural ambassadors for the United Arab Emirates. They hail from the emirate of Dubai, where they spent their formative years, attending the Al Mawakeb School. The brothers attended university in Texas, and garnered early work experience in the GCC before deciding to become entrepreneurs.
They are co-founders of Qabeela New Media, an Emirati production company that creates socially responsible films, and are co- producers & co-hosts of the award- winning travel series Peeta Planet.
Being supporters of local culture and keen to share positive experiences with their audience, the #MyDubai initiative was a natural and perfect fit for them. Both Mohamed and Peyman share with Teach UAE Magazine some notable places to visit within their home emirate of Dubai, nuggets of wisdom for upcoming entrepreneurs, all while helping us to know them better in this A moment With.
What was the inspiration behind Wild Peeta and Peeta Planet?
Brothers: The idea for Peeta Planet came to us when we were taking a much-needed vacation in Sri Lanka a few years after we started Wild Peeta. Not sure of what to do there, we sent a tweet out to our followers asking for Recommendations using the hashtag #PeetaPlanet. The response and feedback was overwhelming and the idea stuck! Two years later the #PeetaPlanet hashtag was turned into a TV show. We packed our bags in search of some of the world’s most innovative change-makers.
What important lesson(s) have you learned from being entrepreneurs and how can others who wish to become entrepreneurs benefit from your experiences?
Peyman: As entrepreneurs, experience has been one of our best teachers. When starting a business (or several businesses as in our case), books, articles and mentors can only take you so far. You need to get your hands dirty and you need to experiment and try things out. It is crucial that you are somewhat knowledgeable and familiar with all processes from the bottom up. Failure has also been a great and humbling teacher. The lessons you learn from failing are invaluable and they stick around much longer than success lessons do. To experience failure forces you to search for innovative solutions. Failure opens your mind to different ideas. Some of our best ideas are a direct result of an idea that failed.
Mohamed: We’ve also learned a lot from observing our leaders and reflecting on their actions. Watching Dubai and the Emirates transform over the past 43 years has taught us a lot about dreaming big, working hard and persevering despite all odds. This became a lot more real to me during the economic crisis when people were saying how the UAE had finally had it and that it could never bounce back. Seeing our leaders still persevere, have a positive attitude and believe that would get through anything life throws our way was a huge personal inspiration and valuable lesson.
As cultural ambassadors, what are three important ways in which Emiratis can promote the culture and traditions of the UAE?
Brothers: Three important ways Emiratis can promote the culture and traditions of the UAE are:
A. Open Dialogue: When travelling or meeting people from another culture, be open about who you are and where you’re from. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation. Tell your own narrative, share your personal stories and connect with the other person on a human level. A genuine, honest and open conversation about culture and traditions can do wonders to break stereotypes.
B. Hospitality: If possible, we highly encourage promoting by doing! Rather than talking about culture and tradition with non-Emiratis, show them how it’s done and involve them in the processes. Two of our favourite segments to film on the #MyDubaiTrip was when we brought Seo Ju Park home to experience Eid in an Emirati household, and when we took Craig Howes to get his own bespoke kandourah. When we travel, we like to engage first hand with the culture; when the situation is reversed, we try to do the same.
C. Educate Yourself: Before promoting culture and traditions, it often helps to get reacquainted with details and explanations that you wouldn’t have known before. When filming the #MyDubaiTrip, we got to visit a lot of cultural and heritage centres that we hadn’t been to before (or at least in the past 20 years). It never hurts to learn more about your roots. Go and visit some of the many cultural and historic attractions as a local traveller, and speak with elders and members of your community and soak up some of their local insight!
Share with us the top five places that both locals and expatriates should definitely visit in Dubai. Why?
Brothers: It’s really tough to narrow it down to a Top 5. We’re very blessed to live in a city that has something to offer anyone. If you’re looking for tips, we recommend you visit our website and follow the #MyDubaiTrip and #MyDubai hashtags for more ideas.
The Desert: We are first and foremost desert dwellers, and you can’t begin to understand the Emirates or our culture without a trip to the desert. Whether you’re interested in tranquillity and reflection, or adventure and bustle there’s something in the desert for you. If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, try dune bashing or dune-buggying. If you’d like something more low key, a horse ride, a hot-air balloon or a cup of karak on the dunes is more suitable.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU): Oftentimes, it’s hard to demonstrate heritage, culture and traditions in a way that is both authentic and enjoyable. The SMCCU does just that! Hosting a variety of activities daily, SMCCU is a great place to get a crash course on the Emirati way of life and a spectacular lunch!
Creekside Cafe: Here you can sample traditional Emirati cuisine, with a contemporary twist and get a stellar view of the creek to one side, and the old souq to the other. don’t skip out on the nakhay salad, the ouzi burrito and the desert! Also make sure to walk around the surrounding area to allow your food to digest afterwards. The souqs and the Al Fahidi Historical District (formerly Al Bastakia) are a must-see, and you can easily move between them using an abra (water taxi).
Al Serkal Avenue/Al Quoz: Once an industrial area, Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz is now a burgeoning and up-and-coming spot in the Middle Eastern art world. If you’re lucky enough to be around when they have a Gallery Night… go!
Special Ostadi Kabab: An oldie, but a goodie. Open since 1973, this small, family-run Iranian eatery serves some of the best Southern Iranian cuisine in the city, and quite possibly the best kebab you will ever have. Ostadi has maintained its charm; cosy atmosphere and quality over the decades, making you feel right at home.
What are your two most favourite countries to travel to outside of the UAE? Why are these places special to you and would you recommend them to other travellers?
Mohamed: Nairobi, Kenya: Most little boys have dreams of being explorers, roaming through an African Safari. We were no different, and Kenya has been on our lists since then. The natural beauties of Kenya deserve an entire article on their own. We found a different side to Kenya, a tech- savvy, innovation driven, seamless entrepreneurial side. We met an empowered people, driven by their own ingenuity and desire to better their community. Move aside Silicon valley. For the entrepreneurial types, Nairobi is the place to be.
Peyman: Santiago, Chile: Santiago was one of the cities our audience had selected for us this year. We’re so glad they did, and you should take note and head there yourself. Santiago is a city alive, vibrant and ready to express itself to anyone willing to listen and look. Perhaps due to it’s oppressive past, Chileans are taking creativity to a new level and you’ll find art, colour, music and life being thrown at you from all directions. Not into that? You’ll find tranquillity and stillness in the beautiful Andes that serve as its backdrop.
Mohamed and Peyman celebrate the culture and traditions of the UAE through their projects. They are instrumental in facilitating the process of writing the world’s first autobiography of a great city, Dubai. They also give their audience a unique perspective on some of the world’s most intriguing countries.
To learn more about the #MyDubai initiative and #MyDubaiTrip, check out @MyDubai on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and a 2 minute film that can be seen at: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=_ER6_WRX4By