Bridging the East and the West with Dubai Vlogger Haifa Beseisso

Bridging the East and the West with Dubai Vlogger Haifa Beseisso

Dubai - Dubai based travel vlogger, who quit her full time job, shows how it pays to follow your passion

By Maán Jalal

Published: Wed 31 Aug 2016, 12:46 PM

Last updated: Sun 4 Sep 2016, 2:35 PM

Looking at our newsfeeds we can't help but feel discouraged by the way our region, Arabs and Muslims, are portrayed most of the time. It's even more disheartening to see the lack of exposure for young Arabs and Muslims doing interesting and positive projects. They're definitely there - we know that living in Dubai - but how can we tell the rest of the world? Thankfully we have the Internet. More importantly we have YouTube.

If you don't know her yet, let us introduce you to Haifa Beseisso. After starting her YouTube channel two years ago, Haifa decided to quit her full time job (scary we know) to embark on a journey of travelling and self-discovery. She also documented it all on her YouTube channel.
"I'm the typical girl," Haifa said, with an enigmatic smile while playing with the hem of her colourful abaya. "I don't come from a rich family. I'm just your average girl who is like,  'let's see if a typical person can make it happen."

Haifa is definitely making it happen. With over 100,000 subscribers on her channel and 35 countries that she's visited so far, Haifa still has a vision in mind that she wants to achieve. The ethos of her channel and the way she lives her life is about connecting with people from different backgrounds and cultural understandings than her own through the simplest ways. A smile, a compliment, a common joke, a connection. She is acting as a bridge between the East and the West through her YouTube Channel, interacting and educating her viewers about the Middle East and Muslims.

From travel tips, great countries and stereotypes, Haifa told us everything  about her life as a girl in front and behind the camera.
What started it
It all started with this suffocation feeling that I used to get every single day. Although it was a great company I was working for, it wasn't what I wanted to do. I wasn't saying the things I wanted to say. This suffocation was just there. But what made me really want to do it is when I was contacted by MCN, a multichannel network. These days there are companies that partner up with independent YouTubers and help them out. They saw the potential in it.

I actually started my channel around two years ago to look for a job. I wanted to be a presenter and I wanted to show my skills. I wanted to do that and reach the masses. Online is huge, it's timeless, its placeless. You can reach the states, the UK, Europe while just sitting here. So that's what I did. It was also a platform for me to share my ideas freely.

It's a big part of my channel. I love travelling and I found it a beautiful way to understand the world and people, to connect with them and break boundaries, break stereotypes. But there's my everyday life as well, which is about a girl who is trying to reach her dream and encouraging others to reach their dreams too. I'm trying to empower others to also reach their passion, not by quitting their jobs - after all, you could be doing what you love and that's perfect.
Travelling today as a Muslim
I don't want people to ever look at me as a source of threat. That would bother me. It makes a little scared. I try not to let it consume much of my thinking, but it's just sad that you have to even worry about it. It's sad that you have to always smile too much and always try to say, "I swear I'm a good person, I swear I'm not going to kill you, I swear we can be friends." It just puts a sense of responsibility and sometimes you just want to be chilled, you want to be  able to be tired and walk the street with no facial expression. All of it gives you a sense of responsibility.
Social Experiment
In Italy, I stood with a board and I wrote on it "I'm a Muslim and that makes me..." and I had some pens and people came to complete the sentence. Everything was positive, all the people would take the pen from my hand and write some amazing things. I feel like as much as we see there is some craziness happening in the world, there is also some goodness there.
Arab and Muslim Perceptions
I think the most negative reaction I've had is just a stare. Usually I carry myself with a lot of colours, a lot of positivity and a smile. I think this breaks boundaries directly, so they forget what they see in the news and maybe enjoy my friendliness or colours and smiles. I feel like this is the universal language. This is the way to fight stereotypes and to express who we are. If we want to tell the world who we are as Arabs and Muslims, we have to use colours, we have to use music, we have to use entertainment. But if anybody is racist towards me, I think I've built a platform to do something about it.
The Real You
Being a girl, an Arab girl, helps you get more attention. What was to me a no on TV, was a yes in the Internet world. This shows you the difference of traditional media and new media. How new media actually invites real people and wants you as you are. If you fake it, you're out. I feel like this generation of people are hungry to explore and be themselves, to speak out. That's what's beautiful about the Internet.
The Vision
I consider myself a bridge between the East and the West. To get them closer, to erase stereotypes. You'll find a lot of my videos are spoken in English - that was one of the challenging things. I'm in an Arab market but I'm speaking English. I've travelled and had so many questions, about my hijab and my life. I've seen how curious people are or how much they don't have those answers and I take it as a responsibility to answer them. I also want to empower other girls here in the Middle East. I'm a living experiment, to show people whether it's impossible or not to reach your dreams.

Fun Haifa Facts

Most interesting country?
I adore Zanzibar, I love it.

Country with the best food?
Vienna, Italy was also good.

Country with the most interesting history?
Italy is amazing, and Palestine.

Country everyone should visit?

Country you want to see?
South America and Jamaica.

Tips for travelling
Don't listen to what people say about a country - go for yourself and discover. Try new ways of travelling and always try and have a local friend so you can see the real city. Go without a schedule, it's just as fun. And don't be afraid to try new stuff.  That's what travelling is all about.
When Travelling don't . . .
Go looking for Arabic restaurants in foreign places. That makes me so annoyed.

Packing tips?
What I've found is, one of the best ways to pack is to wear every day's outfit while packing. So if you're going for four days plan four outfits. Sometime we take random things when we travel that we think we'll need but you should be specific. It actually helps.

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