It’s a regular afternoon at Khalid Al Ameri and Salama Mohamed’s residence. There are lights, cameras and a discussion on the duo’s next skit. We keep wondering if there is another side to the couple we will finally discover during the course of our interview. Turns out what you see is what you get on the ’gram. Khalid and Salama, both household names in the UAE, have carved a niche for a brand of humour that while being personal has a universal appeal to it. Underneath it, there is also a deeply contemplative side, which wknd. finds itself privy to as they talk about choosing the rigour of going independent over the trappings of a salaried life, raising a child of determination and creating awareness on vitiligo.
How did both of you meet?
Salama: I was born and raised in Abu Dhabi. How we met… everyone thinks it’s a glorious, romantic story. It was a semi-arranged marriage. I liked the fact that I saw a future with him, other than just normal marriage and having kids. I thought I could have a conversation with him and that he could challenge me mentally. That clicked for me.
Khalid: It was arranged in the sense that you introduce two people who you think will get along well and they end up getting married. We were only engaged for six months. She would make me laugh.
Salama: Well, just to clarify, I was only laughing at my own jokes (laughs).
There was also a time when Khalid left his job and decided to exit the ‘race’. What was going in your mind around that time, Salama?
Salama: I told him — either quit your job and follow your dream, or stay in the job and never complain again. I had his back 100 per cent. I’d like to take credit, but ultimately, he did it (laughs).
Khalid: Marriage, to us, is not just about supporting each other. It is also about facing challenges. Salama had to deal with a lot when I was working in an office but not really enjoying it because she would have to deal with the aftermath of it. I would come home complaining all the time. When the opportunity came, she said, ‘here you go.’
At which point did you discover social media as a platform for you to explore your dreams?
Khalid: I started on Twitter and SnapChat. I was addicted to writing, and would share those articles online. I loved the thoughts and discussions that would provoke amongst communities. I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. We started with videos on SnapChat and I would talk for 20 minutes on a topic. I didn’t know if it would ever be a career, but I knew I could build an audience.
Salama: I joined at a later stage. What I realised, and this is also the reason why I became more active on social media, is that everything went back to my skin. I felt I had a message to give. Once, somebody left a direct message on Instagram, “I can finally leave the house without covering my vitiligo with foundation.” It was a man leaving the house every single day with foundation because he was ashamed of how people would see him.
In what ways were you supportive when Salama began speaking about her vitiligo?
Khalid: It was about giving full support to her ideas, articulating them through videos, joining her wherever she went to promote awareness on the subject. When Salama was invited to be a part of a panel in Egypt, my job was to be on the sideline. I felt I owed it to her — because had she not encouraged me to make a difficult choice, I would never have been able to break free myself. When I quit my job, it wasn’t just me quitting my job, it was my entire family quitting that source of income that was coming every month. If I didn’t have Salama’s full support back then, I wouldn’t have been able to make that decision.
How did you come to complement each other’s brand of humour?
Salama: Our videos are an extension of our reality and personalities.
Khalid: I remember we were having trouble finding stories outside. When you have those kind of troubles, you ask what can we do together. Then we thought, other people are doing skits that are popular on YouTube, we could also try doing something, and that’s when the idea of doing comedy on married life came about, revolving around situations we have been in. Did Salama and I think we would become big on Facebook? No. The key is to never stop entertaining. We work to make every video our best one.
Humour comes from a sensitive place, where on some occasions you may inadvertently offend someone somewhere unknowingly. Where do you draw that fine line?
Khalid: I feel marriage is an individual experience — this is what we go through. If you can relate to it, great; if you cannot relate to it, fine. We keep it personal. We are showcasing our marriage, our thoughts, our interactions. I get mad when I look at movies that stereotype Arabs.
Salama: We don’t tap into other cultures. It goes back to me and him. That’s why it’s more relatable.
How has your individual humour evolved as your popularity has soared?
Salama: I think it’s the same. I still laugh at my own jokes (laughs).
Khalid: We take time to do a good five- or six-minute skit. We experiment with new types and forms of content. We don’t ever want to be stagnant on social media.
Your son is a child of determination. How does he receive your humour?
Salama: Both of us have been blessed to have Khalifa and Abdullah. Once I entered the world of autism, I discovered how beautiful it was. He taught us to live by the day, in the moment and not remember the past. The fact that I can see them on their iPads, hiding away from us watching our videos and cracking up, that’s when I know I have made it in life. I wonder, ‘You have chosen not to watch Netflix or cartoons, but you have decided to watch us?’
Khalid: Once you learn and educate yourself, you don’t worry about your child as much as what kind of world is he going to get into. I am not worried about how he is going to act with you, I am worried about how you are going to act with him, knowing that he is on the autism spectrum. I am worried about the opportunities that will be presented to him when he grows up. It’s only when a society is open to different abilities that we truly flourish.
In what ways are you busting myths about Emirati couples?
Khalid: What we are doing essentially is building a bridge to facilitate communication. There have been people who wonder if they can walk up to an Emirati and say, ‘Hi’. Even when we are fully formal, people come up to us to say hello, no matter what their background is, and for us, that’s a beautiful thing. When people say Emiratis and expats, they always, by default, think of them as two separate brackets. They think Emirati home has some secret — but, hello, we wake up, brush our teeth, watch TV. I think approachability is something Salama and I have done a good job of. We have also shown that expats are engaged in Emirati culture.
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