27th March 2020

In_pictures Iranian becomes celebrity in Georgia over Covid-19

In_pictures Iranian becomes celebrity in Georgia over Covid-19


in_pictures By News from Elsewhere…
…as found by BBC Monitoring

in_pictures Shahab KarimiImage copyright
Mtavari Arkhi

Image caption

‘Just a moment’ – Shahab Karimi endeared himself to Georgians with his quarantine videos

An Iranian tourist in Georgia has become an unlikely internet celebrity after being quarantined amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Shahab Karimi became an overnight sensation after Georgian TV aired a clip in which he talks to reporters outside a hospital in Tbilisi, declaring himself virus-free.

Several nurses are then seen bursting out from the building and ushering him away in panic while he pleads “just a moment, just a moment”.

The video went viral and inspired humorous memes.

One of them used the pictures to illustrate the moment Georgia became independent from the Russian Empire in 1918, only to be absorbed by the emerging Soviet Union a few years later.

Another Facebook user dedicated a rap song in Georgian to coronavirus and the newly emerged star.

“An Iranian has escaped, ‘I do not have corona’, he shouts,” the song goes. “He is followed by a woman, ‘he is not well’, she says.”

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While in quarantine, Mr Karimi posted several video updates which drew a big audience.

“Hello to the kind people of Georgia and everywhere in the world following the news about me. Thank you for your kind emotions,” he said in English in one of the videos, filmed, as he later explained, on a nice sunny day on the balcony of his hotel.

He went on to express his gratitude for the numerous friend requests he received, which he said he “couldn’t accept because of the limitations of the application”.

“Now I feel good,” he assured his fans, expressing hope that the virus will disappear soon.

He put his newfound fame to good use in another vlog, appealing to viewers to help fund the treatment of a 22-year-old cancer patient.

In another video, that received tens of thousands of views, he offered an emotional rendition of an Iranian love song.

Image copyright
Mtavari Arkhi

Image caption

Mr Karimi’s internet fame got a spot on a popular TV show

Soon after his quarantine ended, he posted a video of himself riding around the Georgian capital Tbilisi in a convertible with the car radio at full blast – in a clear sign that he was relishing his freedom.

But Georgia wasn’t prepared to say goodbye just yet. Mr Karimi was invited to appear on a popular TV show.

Announcing his arrival, the presenter of the show Nanuka Zhorzholiani said: “Our guest today would have never imagined that he would end up being so popular in a place 1,193km away from home – that he’ll get invited to appear on TV.”

And that may not be the end of Mr Karimi’s TV appearances.

As he confirmed his plans to stay longer in the country after the border with Iran was closed, the TV host warned him that he’d most likely be invited to take part in the local version of Dancing with the Stars.

Reporting by David Lobzhanidze

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