Region's woes take centre stage as refugee becomes 'Arab Idol'

Sun Jun 23, 2013 6:33am EDT
 
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By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The finalists of "Arab Idol" were as glamorous as Hollywood stars in their tuxedos and evening gowns, but their real lives couldn't be further from the bright lights of the stage.

The three hopefuls hailed from Syria, Egypt and the Palestinian territories - some of the world's most troubled and unsettled countries.

Palestinian Mohammed Assaf, crowned the winner on Saturday night, grew up in a refugee camp in the Gaza strip. He spent hours at border crossings and had to climb the studio's back fence to arrive in time to secure a spot in the competition.

"Spreading the words of young people and watching them achieve their dreams - this is much better than the sounds of gunfire that we are getting used to hearing in Palestine, Syria and around the Arab world," said a beaming Assaf after his win.

In Beirut, where the competition was held, outdoor cafes put up big screens and the sound of 24-year-old Farah Youssef's voice drifted down streets.

Youssef, from Syria, braved a treacherous terrain of gunmen and checkpoints to reach neighboring Lebanon to sing on stage.

Aspiring stars from Morocco to Bahrain competed for a chance at a record deal in the second season of "Arab Idol". Across the region, audiences had been glued to their TV sets to watch the contestants, singing a mix of traditional Arab folk tunes and bubbly pop pieces, whittled down to the final three.

The show also proved a platform to air political and social statements.   Continued...

 
Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf reacts after being announced winner of the Season 2 finale of "Arab Idol" in Zouk Mosbeh area, north of Beirut June 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammed Azakir