Tonight will mark the end of 2022, a year that will probably be forever remembered as one of the most significant and momentous years for the Arab World. Throughout 2022, a bright spotlight shone on the region as Arabs shattered expectations and re-wrote history whether in sports, entertainment or health. They have cemented themselves as trailblazers, able to change the narrative and break the mold. To celebrate the climactic end of this special year, we’ll take a look back at the many Arab firsts as well as the biggest happenings across the region.
When it comes to the cinematic world, we can definitely say that this was the year for Arabs. The region did not just have one but two massive International film festivals to celebrate the art of filmmaking. The Red Sea Film Festival launched its second round in Saudi Arabia while the highly renowned Cairo International Film Festival returned for its 44th edition. Both saw the biggest names in the industry in attendance including Spike Lee, Yousra and Lebleba.
These events provided a massive platform for debuting films that brought the Arab voice to the forefront, sharing with the world the intricacies and rich stories embedded in the lives of its people. With Sally El Hosaini’s “The Swimmers”, everyone got a first-time raw in-your-face look at the harrowing journey Syrian refugees have to undertake across the harsh lapping waters of the Mediterranean Sea. They got to see a true symbol of heroism exemplified through the Mardini sisters who swam for three hours in the open water to reach their destination. Many other stories were celebrated especially with Egypt taking the helm in this year’s CIFF, churning out an excellent selection of films including the powerful documentary “Far From The Nile.”
Beyond the captivating films shared at the festival, the streaming platform, Netflix also got a special dose of Arab-fueled stories with 2022 being the year the platform received its very first original film in Arabic. “Perfect Strangers” starring Mona Zaki was the type of film that shook the world and generated quite the buzz.
Adapted by an Italian film of the same name, the film revolves around the story of seven close friends who come together for a dinner and play a game where each one would share any messages, calls or texts they receive on their phone. What resulted was a night that shed light on the innermost darkest secrets of each character and revealed what many deemed as untapped taboo topics. Despite the controversy behind the film, it was still an excellent depiction of what it would be like to take an intimate look at the lives of a select few, revealing the intricacies of human nature.
The biggest event in Arab history took place this year as the entire world got to witness a global sporting event take place on Arab soil for the first time ever. Scattered along Qatar’s districts were eight state-of-the-art stadiums acting as the stage for the annual FIFA World Cup, stadiums that took 12 years to build and up to $220 billion in funding. Qatar proved to be an excellent host for the soccer event regardless of the global smear campaign it faced throughout the World Cup.
During the pinnacle sporting event, Arabs took center stage and managed to completely change the fabric of what can be accomplished in soccer. Morocco’s The Atlas Lions was this year’s all-star team who achieved the impossible by defeating Portugal, Spain and Croatia while also becoming the first Arab and African team to make it to the World Cup semi-finals. Saudi Arabia also made history by defeating reigning champions, Argentina in a 2-1 victory, a true first in the history of soccer. In all those moments, a flame of momentous joy and pride rippled across the Middle East including the narrow streets of Jerusalem where people gathered and swung the Moroccan flag in pride.
Beyond soccer, Arab athletes brought their A-game to 2022 and broke new world records. Just a couple of months back, Saudi swimmer, Mariam Binladen became the first Arab woman to swim across the Red Sea, traveling from Saudi Arabia to Egypt. Her feat was special not only for it being a 9km swim but also for the dangers she had to face in the water including looming sharks.
Continuing the impressive streak was Egypt’s Farida Osman who made history after breaking the 100-meter butterfly African record at the Budapest 2022 World Aquatics Championships with a time of 57.66 seconds. Big wins also came in small sizes as Egypt’s Hana Goda of 14 years slayed her opponent at the Women’s ping pong competition during the annually held Mediterranean Games. Here’s hoping that 2023 will also bring more examples of successful athleticism to the fold.
Within the halls of hospitals and the piercing light of operating rooms, more exciting 2022 achievements rose to the surface. Just a few days ago, after months of preparation, a group of doctors at Ain Shams Hospital came together to complete the first ever successful lung transplant in Egypt. For 14 hours, in three operating rooms, surgeons and anesthesiologists raced against the clock as they transplanted a section of someone’s lung onto Sahar, a 30-year-old woman who was on the verge of respiratory failure with a small chance of survival. It’s a heartwarming story as the person who donated a part of their lung was Sahar’s very own brother, Gomaa. Today, the siblings are both in stable health following the success of the operation.
In the same vein, months before this pinnacle surgery, a big step was taken when President Abdel El Fattah El Sisi launched the construction of the biggest organ transplant facility in the MENA region in an effort to develop this healthcare system in Egypt. To boost the efficiency and level of operation of the new facility, he plans to have the construction of the facility be in cooperation with International companies. This is a big step that will propel the Middle East as a leading force in the healthcare industry.
Wildfires, droughts, and extensive floods have plagued world countries, bringing to attention the severe ill effects of society and its contribution to the deteriorating state of our environment. That is why for its 27th rendition, COP came back stronger than before with a bigger agenda, all while being hosted at Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh.
The 13-day event saw major breakthroughs and historic breaks including the agreement between world nations to set up a fund dubbed the “Damage and Loss Fund” for developing countries to deal with the immediate effects of climate change. Wealthier nations will take on the duty of supporting poorer nations to ease the brunt and ill effects of the ongoing climate change.
Food security was another big focus of the year with the UAE taking some of the biggest steps to create innovative tech-based solutions to the worldwide ongoing crisis. This year saw the launch of the largest vertical farm plant in Dubai as part of a joint venture between Emirates Food Catering and US-based Crop One. The 330,000 square feet plant dubbed Bustanica is a hydroponic farm that uses 95% less water than traditional farming to water its plants and will grow more than a million kilograms of leafy greens. This is just one of the many ways the region is planning to increase its sustainability efforts for this year and the next.
Entrepreneurship has been on the rise more than any other year with the MENA region spurting out new and groundbreaking talent into the world of business. Among the many names in this year’s roster of business, mavericks is Egypt’s very own Farida Temraz, fashion designer and founder of Egyptian holding company and Haute couture fashion house Temraza. Known to come up with luxurious fashion collections, this fashion house has only been growing in popularity with its designs being worn by Hollywood and International VIPs on the red carpet of the Academy Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and many other global events.
That very same fashion house was selected by Dior to be their official fashion consultant for their fashion show that took place at the Giza pyramids. This was quite huge as this was the first time that Dior ever staged its collection in Egypt, let alone the pyramids.
Temraza proved to be up to the task, supporting the fashion house throughout the entire process from the atelier to the collection room and finally to the studio room. It was a true spectacle as Dior strutted their pre-fall men’s 2023 autumn collection with the pyramids as their backdrop. It cemented Egypt on the global fashion map and will prime the nation to be the staging ground for bigger and more exciting shows for the biggest International fashion houses.
Whether it’s fashion, business, or sports, Arabs proved to be a defying force this year, telling the world, we are here and 2022 is our year. With so many record-breaking accomplishments, we are itching to see what will come of the region once 2023 makes its official landing.