In a small film studio in the heart of Dubai, a group of young Arabs are working hard to make content creation from this region a global success.
They are from all over the Middle East and North Africa and include Emiratis, Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians and Egyptians. They are creating content for Nas News Arabia, a project backed by the UAE Government.
At the Nas Daily studio in Emirates Towers, these influencers have a full-time job to produce content ranging from interesting news items to explainers on what is trending.
The videos are posted on the Nas News Arabia pages, but the creators have built a large following on their personal social media platforms over the past few years.
But working under the company helps them earn a stable monthly income and pursue social media as a profession.
From trainee doctor to content creator
Eisa Alhabib, 27, is a Kuwaiti Instagram star who dropped out of medical school to pursue a career in content creation.
He had received a full scholarship to study at a prestigious university in Canada. He completed his pre-medicine degree with high grades, but decided not to continue, so he could follow his dream of making videos.
“I’ve always wanted to create content. I used to travel in the summers when I was in university and I would make all kinds of videos,” said Mr Alhabib, who currently has more than 30,200 followers on a personal Instagram account.
“But deciding not to become a doctor was one of the most stressful moments of my life. I had such a high GPA (grade point average).
“It was hard because coming from an Arab background and your parents telling everyone that ‘our son will be a doctor’, it puts a lot of pressure on you."
But when an opportunity with Nas News Arabia came up, Mr Alhabib could not pass it up.
He joined the company a year ago and has since made several videos that attracted viewers from all over the world.
After seeing his success in the field, Mr AlHabib’s parents have become more supportive of his career change.
“It’s a great time for Arab content creators,” he said.
“For many years, I believed that Arabs had to westernise themselves to be popular on social media.
“But now, I can say that even speaking in my mother tongue and producing content for the Arab world, I can reach millions of people.
“I truly believe Dubai will be the hub for content creators in the world.”
Ebrahim Abbas, 24, is an Emirati who became a social media sensation through his TikTok videos, which he started making in early 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
He makes content in which he debunks rumours about the UAE, videos that have gone viral many times, helping him gain more than 1.4 million followers and 20.4 million likes on the social media app.
“People were curious about the UAE and they wanted facts about our people,” he said.
“So, I started a series called ‘facts about the Emirates you didn’t know’.
“I started talking about how not everybody owns a Nissan Patrol, is a multi-billionaire or rides camels on Sheikh Zayed Road.”
He was approached by Visioneers, a UAE government company that is trying to build a media ecosystem here, to see if he would be interested in making the series into a show for Nas News Arabia.
For the past year, he has been working with the organisation as a content creator and presenter.
He does a show called Khodha Menni, which translates from Arabic to "take it from me".
“I talk about GCC topics, but mostly focus on the UAE and talk about new laws, dos and don’ts, new projects, best universities, among other things," he said.
Mr Abbas has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, but when he noticed his videos were taking off, he started pursuing social media as a full-time job.
Now, he posts horror stories on his TikTok and is trying to reach two million followers.
He said his videos mostly get a positive response, but “there is also a lot of negativity”.
“I ignore all the haters. They want attention and I’m not going to give it to them,” Mr Abbas said.