At a time when thorny questions are being asked about Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup, Khalifa Al Haroon flashes a smile, a sigh and a shrug as he tries to explain his secrets.
The 38-year-old, known to his growing base of followers as Mr. Q, became a social media hit for partially lifting the veil on the tiny but mega-rich Gulf state, which bills itself as a “conservative” Islamic country designated.
The first World Cup to be held in an Arab country has thrown a spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers, gender rights and even the use of air conditioning in stadiums.
Haroon’s cheerful #QTip videos cover everything from saying “hello” in Arabic to how to properly wear men’s flowing Ghutra headdress. There is also an edition on labor rights.
With less than 60 days until the start of the tournament on November 20th, he now has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and more than 115,000 on YouTube. And the numbers continue to rise.
Qatar has dozens of online influencers on topics ranging from “modest” but expensive fashion to the latest sports car to be imported into one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Haroon has carved out his niche by explaining Qatar’s strangers to its growing expat community – and now the hordes of football fans expected at the World Cup.
Haroon – who was born to a Qatari father and British mother and spent 16 years in Bahrain – said he was first confronted with global stereotypes about Qatar and the Middle East while studying law in the UK.
He actually wanted to be an actor, but started his social media presence with a blog in 2008.
“I was in the perfect position because I was a Qatari who never really lived in Qatar,” he said.
– ‘Trust your own eyes’ –
“Basically, I was like a foreigner in my own country and had the same questions as foreigners, so it was easy for me to start compiling information.”
Haroon said a distinction must be made between “negative news” and misinformation about his country.
“Obviously when it comes to fake news I think everyone understands it’s not true and the only thing I could do is show people videos and pictures and show them how we really are, because you can trust your own eyes. “
Some people told him they decided to move to Qatar after seeing his videos.
Haroon, who is now an advisor to the Qatar Football Association and an eSports entrepreneur, said he’s looking forward to the World Cup “because now people can come here and experience it for themselves and make their own judgments instead of just believing what’s written stands”.
His biggest annoyance is how outsiders see something negative about Qatar and then believe that all Qataris “accept it or we’re all okay with it”.
However, many fans of the 31 foreign countries set to play in Qatar have expressed concerns about the reception that awaits them. can you drink And what happens to same-sex couples in a country where homosexuality is illegal?
The government has insisted beer, which is normally restricted, will be available and that everyone is welcome. Haroon wants outsiders to experience “real Qatari hospitality” with its food and coffee culture.
“Of course there will be certain social norms,” ??Haroon said. “What we are asking is simply respect for the country. And of course the country will definitely respect anyone who comes.”
“Some people might make mistakes because they don’t know the rules and that’s okay,” he added.
“The point is that our culture is about intention, our religion is about intention. So as long as you have good intentions and want to do the right thing, you don’t have to worry.”