Monday, April 2, 2012

Sultan Al Qassemi: Tweeting revolutions, 140 characters at a time

Sultan Al Qassemi Sultan Al Qassemi: Tweeting revolutions, 140 characters at a time Sultan Al Qassemi: Tweeting revolutions, 140 characters at a time
1st April 2012 by Nancy Messieh
Sultan Al Qassemi introduces himself using his full name, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. He says, “It’s always better if you use my late father’s name, because there are so many Sultan Al Qassemis.”
The United Arab Emirates-based businessman and writer is best known for his role on Twitter, curating and sharing articles from all over the Arabic and English Web, live tweeting significant events in Egypt and beyond, sharing all the news he can find on the Arab uprisings and news emerging from the Middle East, 140 characters at a time.
His activity on Twitter has landed him on several top 100 lists of Twitter users in the Arab region, including the number one spot on Forbes Middle East’s top 100 Arab Twitter users as well as appearing in the top 10 list put together by Arabic London-based daily, Al Sharq Al Awsat, alongside a mixture of Arab politicians, royalty, activists and entertainers.

He dismisses the lists quickly and modestly. ”The lists are very subjective. It depends on who uses them. If you’re doing an Arabic list, I probably wouldn’t figure on that list because I tweet in English. I make a point of tweeting in English. It gets me a lot of criticism, but I feel there’s a market gap for tweets about the Middle East that are in English.”

Tweeting about and for Egypt

Despite being from the UAE, one of Sultan’s main topics of focus is Egypt, ”90% of my tweets are about Egypt, and the rest are about Saudi, and the Gulf states.”
Explaining the reasons for his choice of focus, he says, “I feel that with Egypt’s demographic and cultural weight, and Saudi Arabia with its financial and religious weight, these are two pillar states. They are the two countries that affect the rest of the Arab world. If these countries are reformed, then I feel the benefit is exponentially multiplied to regional countries in the case of Egypt, and to Gulf states in the case of Saudi. So if Egypt is a success story, then all of us are going to benefit, including people in the Gulf, in the North Africa, in the Levant.”
It’s impossible to miss Sultan’s passion for Egypt, whether on Twitter, or when speaking to him. We walked down a street in downtown Cairo, a stone’s throw away from the now infamous Tahrir, and he takes in the graffiti that has become an intrinsic part of how some activists choose to express themselves.
Walls have been erected throughout Cairo’s downtown streets, and artists have come all over the country to paint them. The most striking of these is one that paints the scene of the street, as though the wall was not there.
We don’t reach these walls because there is more than enough graffiti adorning the walls of the American University in Cairo. We stop and take a few photos. An old Egyptian man with an unruly head of white hair, wearing a pinstripe suit, walks up to us, and asks us for a minute of our time. Sultan is more than happy to stop and listen for a few minutes before we head back to a coffee shop that has witnessed the best and worst that Egypt’s uprising has had to offer.
Sultan is a writer first, before anything else. He’s been blogging, and has been active Twitter user for about 3 or 4 years. He explains the appeal that Twitter holds for him, “I felt it was complimentary to my writing. If you write an 800 word article, it will be read by a certain number of people, but the reach with social media is so much greater.”

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