Sudanese social media has lately boomed with different influencers. In their special ways they spread Sudanese culture & try to leave their own fingerprint, reflecting a positive and interesting image about Sudan as the country of beauty and generous resources. In this interview we had the pleasure of speaking to Mohamed ElBadawi, known online as Moohy ElBadawi, one of the active YouTubers on social media, creating travel and culture vlogs from Sudan and around the globe.
Andariya: What inspired you to start your vlogs?
Mohamed ElBadawi: Before starting my YouTube channel, I had been watching a lot of videos for around 4 years and I started my YouTube channel after finishing my Bachelor’s degree. You can say that there are many who inspired me, but most credit goes to the American vlogger Casey Neistat- his vlogs are amazing, so you can say he’s my main motivation.
Andariya: Tell us the story of how you first got into digital content creation? Who supported you?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I had the idea of presenting my country in the best possible way, but I didn’t have the courage to do so. It helped that I spoke to my friends about my intention of starting a YouTube channel. Alhamdulillah all my friends in addition to my brother Ibrahim supported me very much.
After handing over my graduation project I had free time but didn’t own a camera. The only good camera that was available at the time was my brother’s camera, so one day I spoke to him about my intention to get a new one and he said I could use his and give it a try to see how it is going to be. Thanks God he said so, because the next day I started shooting my first vlog. It took me 3 weeks to upload it, because in that period of time I did research on how to montage and edit videos.
As for the second part of the question, I would like to say that my friends were supportive. Nawaf was a big motivation source for me telling me once you start, I’m sure you will rock it. His major was media, so in those 3 weeks of research he helped me get to know more about programs. Another friend is Mazin, and of course my brother Ibrahim, and you know when the motivation comes from your brother, it’s unlike any kind of motivation.
Source: Moohy ElBadawi's Youtube
Andariya: How would you describe your vlogging style?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I think my style is to make it as family friendly as possible. When I’m holding the camera, the first thing that I think about is that young viewers are watching me. You may have noticed that I add some information regarding the topic if it’s about Sudan. The viewers may have a different point of view, but for me I would say it’s a family friendly entertaining style.
Andariya: Did you have any professional help, or did you create the channel yourself?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I would say the greatest assistance I have ever had was from my brother Ibrahim. He gave me the camera to start with and daily mental support.
Andariya: How much time do you spend vlogging?
Mohamed ElBadawi: When I started my Master’s degree I had a schedule; I planned on uploading a vlog every week. Sometimes it slips because of exams, because the post-production stage (editing) takes a lot of time. I usually spend a day on it and I start after midnight sometimes up to 3 AM. This is before I started my job in Sudan. I’m still having a lot of difficulties managing and even have more than 20 unedited vlogs already on my laptop. This is the main problem that I’m currently facing because the work load pressure is massive; I go to work in the morning and I came back at night, so it’s hard for me to sit and edit.
The 10-15 minute videos that you see on YouTube take no less than 10 to 15 hours to edit. Thanks to my followers- who I call my friends- they kept supporting me and giving me ideas about finding an assistant who can help me reduce the 10 or 15 hours to 1 or 2 hours. Being away from YouTube is not something that I like; I miss YouTube and friends from YouTube, so not uploading a video for a while really annoys me.
Alhamdollelah I recently found a really good editor. Inshallah I’m coming back with all my power and I’m ready because I haven’t uploaded any video in the last couple of months, but I have recorded many.
Andariya: Is there a specific message you’re trying to spread?
Mohamed ElBadawi: A positive love message. Spreading such a message in Sudan is so difficult for people to perceive. They accept negative ones easily, so I had to work on that and Alhamdulillah I’m happy and satisfied.
Andariya: Is vlogging your profession or a hobby?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I never thought of it as a full time job, and if I thought of it in that way I would have never stayed on YouTube this long; because the money that I would make would amount to nothing. I will also feel like this is not really fulfilling towards how hard I work, so from the beginning it’s a hobby for me. Maybe if this changed for better in the future, I wouldn’t mind getting some benefits, but YouTube will stay a hobby for me.
There is a big misunderstanding among the Sudanese community that Sudanese YouTubers can make money from YouTube, which is true but not in Sudan, due to the ban that has been on for the past 20 years. Although the ban is lifted now, but still if you’re in Sudan you get nothing. I have activated the advertisements button in my channel, yet I didn’t receive a penny from YouTube. This feature works when you’re outside Sudan, because you (the viewers) get to see advertisement. This is a disclaimer I would like to point out.
Andariya: Why did you choose Youtube over other platforms?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I chose YouTube, because the types of vlogs or videos I create normally go on YouTube. When you build a YouTube channel you build a family, and it’s about videos only- unlike other social media platforms such as Facebook for example. When it comes to the viewers I thought they were outside Sudan, but I was amazed that the majority are from Sudan then KSA, UK & UAE & I thank them so much and truly feel blessed by their support.
Andariya: Your video “Sudanese dress in London” has the most views, why do you think so?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I would say it’s a combination of a few things; one of them is that the YouTube algorithm automatically features videos if they hit a lot of views in two or three hours. When I posted that video I remember I had less than 10,000 followers and they saw the video before the first 24hours. There was also a newspaper here in Khartoum, called “Al-Nilain” that contacted me regarding the video, so I believe that helped a lot in raising the number of views.
Source: Moohy ElBadawi's Youtube
Andariya: The second and third most viewed videos are also about Sudan and we noticed AJ+ has shown the video on their social media hashtag ”تعرف_ على _السودان”. Does that give you more motivation to present Sudan to your viewers?
Mohamed ElBadawi: The moment AJ+ posted my video was perfect. I had already uploaded the video one month before the hashtag was trending in 7 countries on twitter. I guess they saw the tweet I had about it and took the video. Of course I was happy the tweet got a lot of retweets, and I think the video reached 2 million views on AJ’s Facebook page. Alhamdolleah I’m grateful and I think it did a great job in presenting Sudan in a video, whereas others shared photos and information. I was thrilled to introduce many to Sudan, which was the main reason for starting my YouTube channel, and that absolutely gave me a huge push to do more.
Andariya: What has been the most challenging moment in your vlogging journey so far?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I would say the main two challenges to my vlogging journey were: when I was going to the UK to start my Master’s degree and now with a full time job. Before going to do my Master’s I had two options, the first is to stop YouTube until I finished, or keep going. I knew if I kept going I will be under huge pressure, because I love vlogs a lot, and when I do them they should be out in the best way. I have questioned myself because the pressure from the university was massive and it was difficult, but I’m glad I did it. As you said the video that has the most views is the one in London.
As for my second challenge that I’m going through now, I think this one is way bigger than the previous one. Nonetheless, I love vlogging and I want to come back stronger than before.
Andariya: How do you motivate yourself to keep the vlog up and running?
Mohamed ElBadawi: My main motivation is what you said - we’re proud of you. When I sit to upload a video, I check my older videos to read every single comment. I know all of them are writing positive good comments, and this is what actually keeps me going; just seeing the feedback from the community, my family and YouTube family. When people meet me on street and tell me they liked my video and they’re proud of me, you have no idea how fulfilling and satisfying that feeling is. I work hard for this and when I see this amazing positive feedback it keeps me going.
Andariya: Tell me about your proudest achievement and your greatest failure and what you learned from them?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I think so far I did a great job, of course this is not because of me- all praise is due to Allah, he made people accept me and like what I do and it’s positive. I have no idea how it happened, but those who are following me understand the positive message I’m trying to send out and they support me.
Regarding the greatest failure, I really don’t believe in that which is why I don’t remember anything as a failure. I went through a lot of obstacles in my life as everybody else did, and I believe that I’m still going through them, but it’s a matter of how you do deal with things. Any bad thing that occurred to me is not a failure, whatever happens after that I consider as a learning point. I lived away from my family for 6 years and one of the things that I really learned is there’s no failure in this life. There’s a teacher and that teacher for me is experience, so going through bad times is the best thing you can learn from this life.
Andariya: How often do you communicate with your followers?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I do my best in answering YouTube comments in the first two to three hours after uploading a video. I’m also available on Instagram and I reply to each message sent to me in a friendly way. I know people send messages to Moohy the vlogger whom they know a lot through his videos. I like it, they’re the reason why I reached this level & I’m active on Instagram on a daily basis with stories doing my best when there’s something worth documenting.
Andariya: How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
Mohamed ElBadawi: My plan has been the same since the beginning, to get better and better on YouTube focusing more on Sudan, Sudanese culture, heritage and showing it to the world.
Source: Moohy ElBadawi's Youtube
Andariya: Where do you hope your vlogs will take you?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I will definitely do a lot of vlogs within Sudan, showing the touristic side of Sudan and the positive side of Sudanese people. There’s also something else that my YouTube family likes; documenting when I travel outside Sudan, so hopefully I will be able to do it as I’m trying my best to save for a summer vacation outside Sudan. Another thing is sharing information about things people don’t know about Sudan; such as the magnificent places that many Sudanese people don’t know about. For example, the western part of Sudan has amazing nature that you won’t find in many places around the world. So my plan is to go around all the touristic places around Sudan and add them to my channel, so any one who would Google it will find it directly.
I like YouTube a lot, and I don’t plan to move to television, even though all the Sudanese TV channels without exception have invited me to do interviews. I rejected their offers because I don’t like to be on TV; I would like to stick along with YouTube. It’s not that I’m underestimating TV, but I feel like TV nowadays is not really for our generation. Social media is there for us and does a lot, that why I’m on it. Maybe I’ll add videos to Instagram in the new feature of IGTV.
Andariya: Would you encourage other people to create their own vlogs?
Mohamed ElBadawi: Of course I do, because in Sudan there are a lot of things that need to be documented. If we looked towards the western world or Europe, we see a lot of YouTube content creators who are doing stuff that reflect their culture and record their contemporary history. In Sudan, we don’t have that much content, so yes I encourage everyone who can share their videos and experience through YouTube to do it, so at least we have something for the next generation; so they would know what people back in the early 2000s were doing.
Andariya: Finally, do you have anything you would like to tell your followers and readers through Andariya?
Mohamed ElBadawi: I would like to say that regardless of what Sudan is going through, and we have been going through a lot of difficulties for a while, I’m not going to talk about the government because I don’t like to talk about it. Our people are nice and our country is beautiful, just take the time to appreciate that we have such a country and may Allah helps us pass through these difficult times. I know what is happening around, but I don’t share it because if I criticized something I will not add anything, but if I spread the positive message, pointed out and highlighted the amazing stuff that we have, I might be putting a smile over people’s faces.