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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Haifa Beseisso's striking new video asks us to rethink stereotypes about the Middle East 

The Palestinian-American vlogger says it's time to 'speak up'

The video is part of Creators for Change, a YouTube initiative 'that spotlights inspirational creators who use YouTube to foster productive conversations around tough issues'
The video is part of Creators for Change, a YouTube initiative 'that spotlights inspirational creators who use YouTube to foster productive conversations around tough issues'

Haifa Beseisso, also known as Fly with Haifa, is known across YouTube and Instagram for her bright, happy regional travel videos – but her latest post is something quite different.

The Palestinian-American star has tied up with the video-sharing platform's Creators for Change initiative to release a seven-minute video that aims to paint a different picture of what it means to be young, and female, in much of the Middle East.

The Creators for Change films are all about tackling "a wide range of topics, from self-acceptance and showing kindness to others, to celebrating cultures and advocating for global empathy".

Here is Fly with Haifa's take on the Middle East:

The video starts with a sepia tone, and an amateur-looking theatre performance that paints a bleak picture of Haifa's existence: "Yes I am oppressed. Just like how you guessed. I don't get a say in what I do." The man then responds: "And I have 10 wives that I bomb all my life. And then I go to eat hummus."

At about one minutes and 30 seconds, the video switches completely, moving into a bold, Technicolour phase: "Pass the microphone, let me speak up and vent. The Middle East girls came down to represent."

A screen grab of the colourful moment in which the video switches tone, and Haifa says it's time to "speak up".
A screen grab of the colourful moment in which the video switches tone, and Haifa says it's time to 'speak up'

The video was shot in Dubai, Egypt and Morocco. "Spread rumours about us and we gonna clap back," she raps. "Doctors, lawyers, coffee shop owners. CEOs, ministers, PHD holders," she says of women from the Middle East.

At three minutes, the camera then pans to Haifa and her male co-star on a boat near Dubai Marina – at which point the video becomes a travel-vlog/music-video hybrid. They take the viewer on a tour of the Middle East. They start off by pointing out that the region encompasses far more countries than people think, showing a map of North Africa. They then head to the "land of the pharaohs", noting how much was invented in Egypt:

A moment highlighting some of the products invented in Egypt. 
A moment highlighting some of the products invented in Egypt

When they head to the Gulf, they show the serenity of the desert, as well as the sophistication of Dubai:

A Dubai moment in the film highlights how cosmopolitan much of the Middle East is. 
A Dubai moment in the film highlights the cosmopolitan nature of much of the Middle East

The song goes on to drum in how it's OK to be different, asking viewers to think beyond the stereotypes they see on TV when it comes to the Middle East. Are they suggesting, perhaps, that YouTube is the better medium? Well, there's a lot of terrible, and damaging, content on YouTube, but it's also a platform with a lower barrier to entry than traditional media that, in turn, leads to more-diverse voices.

Haifa Beseisso's other most striking YouTube video is I Got Married, which starts with her facing pressure to find a nice man and get married. She then walks around Dubai in a wedding dress, inviting people to her wedding – saying that she will wed "life". The rest of the video shows her having the best time, with her grand old partner in crime, life.

Watch it all – it's surprising uplifting (and has been viewed almost one million times):

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Read more:

Meet Maha Jaafar, the UAE vlogger helping to clean up YouTube’s reputation

Why 'influencer' isn't always a dirty word and Huda Kattan transcends it

When the influence is real: social media accounts we actually find inspiring

Rawan bin Hussain’s top tips to becoming a seriously successful online influencer

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