With 13.5 million fans, Keemokazi talks life as an Arab TikTok star

With 13.5 million fans, Keemokazi talks life as an Arab TikTok star
Kareem Hesri is an online celebrity known to most as Keemokazi. Instagram
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Updated 24 November 2020

With 13.5 million fans, Keemokazi talks life as an Arab TikTok star

With 13.5 million fans, Keemokazi talks life as an Arab TikTok star

LOS ANGELES: “It first started when I just decided to prank my mom,” Kareem Hesri told Arab News from his family’s beautiful southern California home. “I threw it on TikTok. She didn’t care. 10 million overnight. It blew up.”

Hesri is a Syrian American teenager and the only boy among his five siblings. He is also an online celebrity known to most as Keemokazi, most famous for his videos on the social media app, TikTok.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KAZI (@keemokazi)

Every day, millions of viewers watch Keemokazi and his family in skits and prank videos such as the one that launched Hesri’s career in what is one of the newest entertainment jobs: Influencer.

“My passion always led me to entertainment. It was either music or acting,” he said.

His family was supportive of his entertainment aspirations but recognized the challenges of breaking into the industry. Hesri’s father set firm but realistic goals for him: By the end of high school he needed to have got a solid start as an entertainer or he would need to explore more traditional jobs. Not interested in an office job, Hesri began working on his passion.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KAZI (@keemokazi)

“I first started out with acting. I was on a show called ‘The Last Ship’ on TNT. I played a Syrian refugee. So, I did acting first. I met a producer at an acting camp and rapped for him. He brought me to the studio,” Hesri added.

His music career launched in 2017 with his sister Serene acting as his manager. But after some early audience growth, his audience stagnated. “I was stuck at 10,000 followers for years. I never grew. So Serene was always emailing people, trying to get my music played.”

Around the same time, the short-form video content app TikTok was a social media sensation. Created by a merger between the apps Musical.ly and Douyin, TikTok had become home to a generation of online content creators particularly those who had originally gained popularity on the by then defunct app, Vine.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KAZI (@keemokazi)

Hesri watched as entertainers his age went from unknowns to receiving millions of daily views. “I never wanted to be the rapper or the music artist that did silly videos. I wanted to be taken seriously,” he said about his initial apprehension at joining TikTok.

But after seeing the kind of success that other young people where finding on the platform, Hesri created his Keemokazi profile and debuted the prank video that launched him and his family into the spotlight. Now it has become his full-time job.

For Hesri the work begins with research. He spends hours before going to bed each night on TikTok’s For You page looking through popular videos in search of inspiration for the next day’s filming.

“If you want to be on TikTok, and you want to be viral on this app, you have to see the trends,” he added.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KAZI (@keemokazi)

From there he writes, directs, films, and edits multiple 15 to 30-second videos each day. The workload may not sound difficult, a perception that can put influencers under scrutiny from outside observers.

“If you watch a video, you’ll think it’s easy. If you do the video, it’s hard. It’ll take hours for at least one video,” he said, going on to mention the additional factors of needing to stay timely and consistent.

Hesri is not alone in this work. His family members have gone from being supportive of his dream to having supporting roles in his dream. Followers tune in to Keemokazi not just to see his antics but to watch the entire Hesri family. He attributes much of his success to his family and their Arab roots.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KAZI (@keemokazi)

“We hit the Middle East, a very loyal fanbase, because my mom was cursing and yelling in Arabic. People loved it. We have to stay loyal to that because we are Middle Eastern as well as from Syria. So, we connect to them very well. It’s a different kind of connection. I don’t consider them fans or supporters. I consider them family,” he added.

A recent trend among Hesri’s contemporaries is the influencer house, where groups of content creators on TikTok or Instagram will live together under one roof in a sort of social media reality show. Yet despite its rising popularity, Hesri said he had no plans to join the trend.

“This is where the heart lies. This is where the gold is: With family.”


Egypt announces ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site

Egypt announces ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site
Updated 17 January 2021

Egypt announces ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site

Egypt announces ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site
  • Egyptian archaeologist says discoveries will rewrite history of region

CAIRO: An Egyptian archaeological mission working in the Saqqara area near the pyramids of Giza in Egypt has discovered dozens of archeological finds, including a Pharaonic funerary temple.

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced that the discoveries —  made by the joint mission between the council and the Zahi Hawass Center of Egyptology — include wooden wells and coffins from the New Kingdom, dating back to 3000 B.C.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the council, said that the discoveries are located at the Saqqara necropolis, near the pyramid where King Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, who ruled Egypt between 2323 and 2291 B.C., is buried.

Zahi Hawass, Egyptian archaeologist and head of the mission, said that these discoveries will rewrite the history of the region, especially during the 18th and 19th Dynasties of the New Kingdom, during which time King Teti was worshiped.

Hawass said that the mission found the funerary temple of Queen Nearit, wife of King Teti, part of which was uncovered in the years prior to the mission, as well as three mud-brick warehouses on the southeastern side, used to store offerings and tools that were involved in a revival of the queen’s creed.

The mission also discovered 52 wells, ranging in depths between 10 to 12 meters and containing more than 50 wooden coffins from the New Kingdom era. This is the first time that coffins dating back to 3000 B.C. have been found in the Saqqara area.

The surfaces of the coffins depict various scenes involving the gods who were worshipped during this period, in addition to texts from the Book of the Dead that help the deceased pass on to the other world.

Inside the wells, the mission found numerous artifacts, such as statues of the deity Ptah, as well as a four-meter-long papyrus, representing chapter 17 from the Book of the Dead, with the name of its owner recorded on it. The same name was found on four statues.

Other finds included a set of wooden masks; games for the deceased to play in the other world, one of which is similar to chess; and statues and a shrine of Anubis, the god of death.

The mission also discovered a bronze ax, indicating that its owner was one of the leaders of the army in the New Kingdom era, and paintings inscribed with scenes of the deceased and his wife and hieroglyphic writings.

A large amount of pottery dating back to the New Kingdom was found, including pottery establishing trade relations between Egypt and Crete, as well as Syria and Palestine.

Hawass explained that this discovery confirms that the Saqqara antiquities area was not used for burial during the Late Period only, but also in the New Kingdom.

The mission studied the mummy of a woman who was found to be suffering from a disease known as Mediterranean fever or swine fever, which comes from direct contact with an animal and leads to a liver abscess.

Hawass asserted that the archeological discovery is one of the most significant ones of this year and will make Saqqara an important tourist and cultural destination. It will rewrite the history of Saqqara in the era of the New Kingdom and will confirm the importance of the worship of King Teti during the 19th Dynasty.