Zubair Sarookh
Zubair Bin Jaafar Ba’oom, who is popularly known on YouTube as Zubair Sarookh, sat down with Gulf News for an interview at Aljada Discovery Centre in Sharjah, and explained how his determination and ambition led to a successful career on social media. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/ Gulf News

Sharjah: A successful career can be attained in many ways. For Zubair Bin Jaafar Ba’oom, his calling was on social media – and one that happened solely by chance.

Ba’oom, 25, is one of the UAE’s most recognised content creators after gaining massive popularity on Facebook, thanks to his skits that take a satirical look at Arab life. The YouTuber, who is from Yemen and based in the UAE, initially jumped into the workforce and got the traditional 9-5 job right after graduating from high school, even though he admits he always secretly wanted to be a football player.

“After high school, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know it, but Allah had something better planned,” said Ba’oom, who goes by the name Zubair Sarookh on social media.

Who is Zubair Sarookh?

Sarookh plays a number of characters in his videos, such as the father Abu Zubair, Uncle Rambo, and the mother, as well as his own character.

“But my father is nothing like the YouTube character, as it’s all satire,” he laughingly points out.

“I take inspiration from my school days, from my surroundings, and everything around me. I was a very shy person in school and only used to play football and go back home. But being in front of the camera helped me gain confidence, break out of my shell, and made my personality stronger.”

Family’s initial reaction

After working for several years at Sharjah International Airport, Sarookh saw the potential for a career in social media. By that time, he had learned to write a script, act, edit and shoot videos, and was struggling to juggle his time between the vlogs and the desk job.

“Back then there was no TikTok. Instagram and Snapchat were just starting out, and the main platforms were Facebook and YouTube. I think I can proudly say that in the UAE, I am one of the first comedy content creators because I did not see anyone doing skits in English, and that’s one of the reasons why I started making videos in English and not in Arabic,” he said.

When Sarookh decided to quit his job and focus on social media, his family was sceptical.

“When my parents found out I was leaving my office job, they didn’t know what a content creator was. My father [who was an officer in Sharjah Police] was worried about my future and did not know what I was doing with my life.”

“At the beginning they were worried but now, Alhamdulillah, as they see me gaining more success and fame, they have become more understanding,” he said, noting that they were won over after he was awarded with Best Comedy Video from Filmfare Middle East in January and Arab Asia Starz in June.

“They finally saw that I was doing something in life and not just making a fool out of myself on the internet.”

Overcoming internet trolls

Sarookh first stepped into the world of social media while having fun with friends.

“In the beginning, not many people liked [what I did]. There were also people who were hating, and I would sit and read every comment posted online, and it affected me a lot. But afterwards, I didn’t let them get to me. You can’t just let strangers affect you and I learned that no matter what you do, there will always be people trying to put you down. Now, nothing affects me.

“When you start something new, not everyone will support you but I’m really grateful to those who supported me. At first, many were against the vlogs but as time went by, I started gaining views and people started recognising me, and then they appreciated what I had to offer.”

The big break

Sarookh achieved success overnight when his first video gained one million views. The attention it received encouraged him to continue with the vlogs, “and then I got my big break when I posted a video about Arabs ordering chicken.”

A topic as random as ordering chicken catapulted Sarookh into social media stardom, as the video clip attracted one million views in two hours and three million views by the end of the day.

“After that vlog, my page blew up and overnight, everything changed and I decided to work on my videos consistently. Even though I had a regular job at the time, I decided that it wasn’t for me and I wanted to focus on social media instead.”

Endorsement offers and branding opportunities soon followed as big companies reached out to him, and nowadays, Sarookh reviews places in the emirates and supports his favourite brands across the UAE.

“To become successful, you need to have patience and know how to never give up,” he added. “There were days when I just wanted to run away because sometimes it became very depressing, but you need to have a strong mindset. If today is not your time, tomorrow it will come.”