“Three, two, one, go!” content creator Osama Marwah shouts at the beginning of the 18-minute video, as 10 people scramble their way through the gigantic tent-shaped Al Bayt Stadium, finding the perfect hiding spot.
It was a game of hide and seek.
Since it was posted on YouTube, the video has been streamed more than 10 million times. Marwah, who uploaded it on his channel, has more than five million subscribers.
His is the type of content that's riding a wave of the rapidly growing creator economy, projected to reach a value of a whopping $104.2 billion this year.
In the Middle East and North Africa, lifestyle is one of the region’s top content categories. The term is all-encompassing, referring to beauty, gaming, comedy, farming, or just generic reality-TV-like content.
Mena is home to numerous internet celebrities, Marwah included, who churn out interesting content that usually highlights the region’s unique cultural quirks.
“Mena paints a picture of what success has to be like for YouTube,” Pedro Pina, vice president and head of YouTube, Europe, Middle East and Africa, tells The National.
“This is where the growth is going to come from. This is where the young population exists — young population with mobile phones in their hands. How YouTube is going to look like in the future is pretty much how it is going to look like in the region as well.”
He adds YouTube is spending “a lot of time leaning in, and trying to understand what needs to happen in order to be successful here”.
Here are five successful YouTube channels to check out.
Noor Stars by Noor Naem
A “riot and a great fun to be with”, according to Pina, Noor Naem is the creator of the channel Noor Stars, which has more than 19.7 million subscribers. Naem, who does a variety of light-hearted vlogs, comedy and beauty videos, was the first female in the Arab world to reach 10 million subscribers.
The Iraqi-American content creator, who makes her videos in Arabic, started Noor Stars when she first moved to the US as a refugee.
His eponymous YouTube channel has more than 5.7 million subscribers. Marwah, 26, documents his mostly funny life encounters and experiences. He does food challenges, prank videos and other light-hearted content that made him famous. He usually features his brother, Anas Marwah, who also has more than a million subscribers.
Manola by Manal
Turning scarves into trousers, creating DIY Ramadan decorations — these are the types of videos on Manal’s YouTube channel Manola. Her content is fuelled by her passion for fashion design, and she even shares tailoring tips with her 400,000 YouTube subscribers.
Her channel was inactive during the pandemic, but since her return, Manal’s subscribers have grown by more than 300 per cent — making her a must-watch for fashion and design buffs.
Science Street by Abdallah Anan
For those reeled in by exciting science experiments online, this channel is right up your alley. Created by Abdallah Anan from Egypt, Science Street has more than three million subscribers, with more than 600 million total views.
Audiences are drawn to the channel because of its simplified presentation of otherwise complex scientific concepts — and the experiments look very intriguing. His short videos on YouTube are particularly popular — amassing more than 100 million views.
With more than seven billion views, Rima Alo Osta is definitely one of the biggest content creators in Saudi Arabia and the wider region. Her content is focused on gaming, which gives her channel more novelty as a creator in a male-dominated category.
Alosta was a product of YouTube’s Batala, a programme dedicated to shine a spotlight on Arabic-speaking female creators and help them promote their channels.