Rami Zeidan, Head of Video and Creative at TikTok, explains how the platform’s creative community united to come up with virtual Ramadan traditions during Covid-19.
The holy month of Ramadan has always been a time of togetherness marked by reflection, gratitude, charity. This year, with social distancing measures in place, universally-enjoyed Ramadan traditions were, in many ways, subdued.
A leading destination for short-form mobile video, TikTok acknowledged that while people were physically apart, they could still be virtually together and continue to have a sense of unity and appreciation during this sacred month. Despite the practical challenges of physical separation, TikTok’s community rallied around creative solutions and content to celebrate Ramadan virtually, lift spirits and support important causes through acts of altruism and kindness.
TikTok’s community shone a spotlight on traditions of entertainment, food, and charity; each expressed with a unique and interactive twist, uniting the region during the holy month.
There was a time when those who celebrated the holy month used to listen to the best stories from “hakawatis” [storytellers], either in public places or at home. While confined at home this Ramadan, the GCC community witnessed stellar production from Ramadan shows. As part of its efforts to encourage people and families to stay at home, TikTok collaborated with several leading media groups like Dubai Media, Al Adl Group, Synergy, and MBC in order to place Ramadan drama content on the platform. The partnership allowed users to view short clips of the blessed month’s most popular series such as “Bint Soghan” and “Lucky Number 7,” but TikTok users decided to add their own little twist to their appreciation of these shows. Participants began recreating some of their favorite episodes from shows like “Ramez Magnoon Rasmy,” in which more than 6,000 videos replicated Saudi actor Hassan Esseiry’s comedic reaction. These videos were played 27.9 million times, reaching an impressive record on the app.
Alongside notions of gratitude and generosity, food and cooking have always played a central role during the holy month for those breaking fast. Tapping into this universal love of food and local cuisine, TikTok launched a food challenge inviting users to connect virtually, instead of physically, and share their favorite Iftar or Suhoor meals under the #cookfromhome hashtag. For every entry, TikTok donated $20 to the Emirates Red Crescent. These meals not only helped lift the spirits of those fasting during the holy month, but it supported people in need and those severely affected by Covid-19. The challenge garnered more than 200 million views with more than 10,000 videos published on the platform, reaching a donation target of $40,000.
During an extraordinary Ramadan impacted by Covid-19, our challenge was engaging with people virtually when they were separated from their families and loved ones. We used food – a key pillar in Ramadan – to bring joy to families and friends who couldn’t be together, and as a way to give back to the people and the community. We were delighted with the high levels of engagement and the massive support from UAE-based chef celebrities like Hisham Baeshen (@misho_baeshen), Amal Al Turk (@turkishwithamal), and Assia Otham (@assiaothman).
This year, the impact of Covid-19 has intensified pressure on vulnerable communities in the region. By tapping into TikTok’s highly engaged and socially-conscious creative community, users have been able to collectively contribute to important causes accepting charitable donations, by creating, engaging, and sharing content on the short-form video platform.
With #everyviewcounts, TikTok joined forces with the United Nations’ Children’s Fund Middle East and North Africa (UNICEF MENA) to raise $200,000 in donations to assist vulnerable children and their families, and provide them with critical supplies. Harnessing the voices of well-known celebrities like Yara (@yara), Balqees Fathi (@balqeesfathi) and Khalid and Salama Al Ameri (@khalidandsalama), 17 live sessions discussing the campaign resulted in over 2.3 million views. This initiative raised awareness regarding the impact Covid-19 had on those who were suffering, and gave users a platform to support our cause. All proceeds were donated to UNICEF MENA to ensure that children and affected communities across the MENA region have enough resources and relief at a time of widespread uncertainty.
In partnership with the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the #everygiftcounts challenge also mobilized users, creators and celebrities Karen Wazen (@karenwazen), Raya Abi Rached (@rayaofficial) and Yara (@yara) to raise funds in support of refugees and displaced families in need, to counter the huge impact of Covid-19 in MENA.
While 2020 has been a unique year, people came together during the Holy Month of Ramadan around generosity, prosperity, entertainment, and creativity. As more people spent time online, the power of creativity on platforms like TikTok has blossomed, reinforcing the region’s resilience, adaptability, and ability to collectively overcome challenges and celebrate moments of joy.