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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Just being social

We track down the TV presenter Mohammed Al Awadhi in an Athenian cafe and talk about the soon-to-air season two of Peeta Planet, the famous TV show he hosts alongside his brother, Peyman.
Peyman Al Awadhi, left, and his brother Mohamed, right, with a fan in Santiago, Chile. Courtesy Peeta Planet
Peyman Al Awadhi, left, and his brother Mohamed, right, with a fan in Santiago, Chile. Courtesy Peeta Planet

Mohamed Al Awadhi keeps getting into all kinds of hairy situations in far-flung corners of the globe. The 40-year-old presenter of the hit TV show Peeta Planet found himself frozen in fear while abseiling down a mountain in Jordan, halfway through filming the second season with his younger brother Peyman, 37, earlier this month.

“I hate heights, but our director wanted to organise it because it’s super-entertaining to watch me cry like a child,” he says. “I was the last person to go down but I couldn’t do it. It was 30 minutes, but it felt like forever.

“At first Peyman was poking fun at me, trying to get me all scared. By the end he was pretty supportive – he was actually cheering me on.

“What finally got me down was that I refused to let my fear of heights defeat me.”

The situation is typical of the Emirati brothers’ groundbreaking TV programme, in which content is driven by their followers on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. In 2009, the brothers planned a trip to Sri Lanka using tips from people they met on social media, which gave them the idea to make one of the world’s first social-media-led shows. They formed a production company, Qabeela New Media, and last April, Peeta Planet was broadcast for the first time on TV, having already taken the internet by storm. The brothers also have a chain of shawarma restaurants, Wild Peeta.

After nine weeks on the road, Mohamed spoke from an Athenian cafe about season two, which airs on Dubai One on Saturday.

Peeta Planet’s social media

Of the 12 destinations we’re visiting for the second season, three were voted for by our social-media followers – Santiago in Chile, San José in Costa Rica and Athens, Greece. And this time around, every guest we’ve chosen was recommended by our followers.

We’ve also been posting a lot more often on all our social-media platforms, particularly Google Plus, where we have about 650,000 followers. We’re constantly engaging with them and taking them on this journey with us – virtually.

The crew

We have a completely new crew for Season Two, and each of them brings to the table a very different approach. The way we film is quite unique. We’ve all become very close friends and it’s allowed us to bring out the best in one another. We also like spontaneity – chatting with people on the street, walking down an alley that looks interesting or stepping into a cafe only frequented by locals and ordering something intriguing off the menu.

Being Middle Eastern

Our vision is to not only explore other cultures, but to show the world what two Middle Easterners are like.

Wedefinitely don’t represent every Middle Easterner. But we are ourselves, and I think it’s really important for people to see the little things that make us human.

In the media, Middle Easterners are constantly portrayed as angry, violent people. We want to tell a more positive, constructive narrative. So you’ll see more of our personalities coming out – that’s something that was missing in Season One.

The sibling rivalry

It’s funny, we’re always trying to outdo each other. We once went horseback riding through the Andes and Peyman was boasting he’d been riding for years, so he knew what to do. I’d never ridden a horse before in my life. Yet he couldn’t get his horse to move, but for me, it was super easy. It’s really funny to see Peyman’s face when these things happen. Peyman is a fashion fiend, he loves to dress up. Sometimes that backfires – when we go trekking and he shows up in high-tops and basketball clothes. And he’s got to layer in that whole can of hairspray in one go! I always make fun of that.

The karaoke

In Manila, we actually filmed ourselves on stage singing karaoke. It was really funny to hear Peyman singing an Alicia Keys song. I don’t know why he chose such a hard song to sing. It was in such a high register that he found it extremely hard – he was squeaking rather than singing; it was really fun to watch.

The food dares

I think I’m much more experimental than Peyman when it comes to food. So I’m cool with eating live octopus or grasshoppers, fried bugs. But last season in Korea, Peyman lost a dare and had to eat a cup of fried silk worms – he was looking for excuses to avoid doing it. Finally he just got into this zone, gobbled four spoons of silk worms up and tried to pass it off as tasting like peanut butter. Which it didn’t!

The best moments abroad

I really enjoyed Jordan, with its flourishing music and arts scene and amazing entrepreneurial environment. Outdoor adventure enthusiasts will also love that it has this natural landscape the rest of the region doesn’t. It got me thinking how we Middle Easterners spend more time exploring the rest of the world instead of exploring our own region. We have a lot to offer here.

In Latin America, we found their culture extremely similar to Middle Eastern culture. That goes a long way, so despite the language barrier, we were able to understand each other very easily.

• Season Two of Peeta Planet starts on Dubai One on Saturday. Visit peetaplanet.com