x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tweeters to meet in real world and help charities at Twestival

Twitter users will be going offline and meeting in the real world at the weekend when the capital and Dubai host twin festivals in aid of local charities.

ABU DHABI // Twitter users will be going offline and meeting in the real world at the weekend when the capital and Dubai host twin festivals in aid of local charities. The tweeters, as users of the social networking service are known, hope the first Twestival Local will dispel notions that their hobby is "frivolous", said Prashant Gulati, an entrepreneur and one of the organisers of the Dubai event.

"It's proving to society that social media can be used for a good cause. It's not just for sharing pictures, it's making the local community stronger," he said. Twestival Local will span more than 150 cities around the world, each event aimed at benefiting local organisations. The Dubai meeting on Saturday, at the Jam Jar art gallery on Sheikh Zayed Road, will raise money for the Dubai Autism Centre (DAC). The Abu Dhabi event is in aid of the Future Centre for Special Needs.

In February, Dubai was part of Twestival Global, which raised more than US$250,000 (Dh920,000) to tackle water shortages in Africa and Asia. Delays caused by regulations governing charity work persuaded the Dubai organisers to think about fundraising more creatively for Twestival Local. There will be "silent" auctions of products donated by sponsors in which bidders submit closed offers. Artwork by DAC students will be on sale, tweeters will be able to sign up to do volunteer work and there will be a booth for donations. There is also an online auction of gold-class Dubai Metro tickets.

Sponsors so far include Nokia, Aramex and the Middle Eastern online retailer Nahel. However, the organiser of the Abu Dhabi event, Tarek Kassar, a project manager and digital media enthusiast, is having difficulty getting it off the ground. The blog for the event has not been updated since August. Mr Kassar said there were fewer tweeters in Abu Dhabi than Dubai, and cultural norms prevented women from attending.

A venue is still to be booked for Friday's event, though a sponsor has been found in Flip Media, a digital media company. Mr Kassar expected a small turnout, but believed that the idea of the Twestival would catch on as more people used the service. He wanted to organise an event in the capital because "Twestival is aimed for every single city. Why not help the people of Abu Dhabi?" Research by UAE-based Spot On Public Relations put the estimated number of tweeters in the UAE at 5,000, and about 12,200 in the Middle East. Twestival Local events will also be taking place in Cairo, Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem.

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