Social travel show looks for San José’s hidden gems

February 25, 2014

Last Saturday, shoppers at the Feria Verde in San José’s Aranjuez neighborhood found themselves in the middle of a television shoot.

The Emirati television show “Peeta Planet,” the self-described first social travel show that launched last year to 50 million viewers in the Middle East and beyond, landed here last Friday halfway through the filming of their second season to dedicate an episode to one of Central America’s least loved capitals: San José.

Brothers Mohammed and Peyman Parham al-Awadhi, founders of the Wild Peeta gourmet shawarma franchise in Dubai and hosts of “Peeta Planet,” take their travel cues from locals interacting with the producers on Twitter and other social media.

“We ask our followers on social media where to go, what to do, [and] connect with very cool people who do great things for their communities,” from food, to entrepreneurship and culture, said Mohammed al-Awadhi.

San José might seem like an odd focus for a travel show considering the natural wonders outside of the capital that lured many of the 2.4 million tourists who visited Costa Rica in 2013, but al-Awadhi said their travel show avoids touristy spots in lieu of the hidden treasures a city might offer.

“It forces us to look beneath the surface and look to things others might overlook,” al-Awadhi said, “For us it’s all about what’s your favorite little restaurant, favorite park, hangout.”

Donning traditional ankle-length dishdasha and headscarves, the brothers stood out among the shorts-wearing and dreadlocked clientele at the organic market. But the weather was on their side.

“The weather is so awesome and the people are so kind and welcoming,” al-Awadhi told The Tico Times. “This market is amazing. Some of the vendors here have amazing stories and that’s what we like to capture in our show.”

Al-Awadhi explained that the show tries to focus on exploring undiscovered parts of well-known, almost cliché, travel spots.

“For us, that’s Costa Rica. We come from the UAE [United Arab Emirates], we’re pretty far away from here. We don’t know anything about this place, so it’s very exciting to come and see that.”

Despite the distance, al-Awadhi said their time in Latin America hasn’t been the culture shock one might expect.

“The culture is very similar here to the Middle East. As we found in our trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, last season,” he said. “In terms of family values and other small things I can relate to, I feel like I’m home.”

The second season of Peeta Planet featuring San José airs in April on Dubai One or on YouTube.

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