From News Headlines To Space Triumphs: A Run-Through Of 2023’s Major Moments

2023 is coming to an end, a year that surprised the world, especially on October 7 when a global lens was shone on occupied Palestine. The globe responded with a newfound form of relentless solidarity, probably one of the biggest events of the entire year. 2023 was also a year that shone a bright spotlight on the region as Arabs once again shattered expectations and rewrote history in everything from space to fashion. To mark the end of 2023 with a bang, we are taking a look back at the biggest happenings of the year across the region.

Major Football Stars Joining Arab Clubs

Marking the year with a bang, for the first time in the Kingdom’s history, one of the biggest football stars in the world joined the Saudi club Al Nassar, making all heads and eyes turn towards Saudi Arabia. Cristiano Ronaldo along with his family jet-setted to the Kingdom and made their stay in Riyadh. Ever since Ronaldo joined Al Nassar, he made a major contribution to the club’s performance with 14 goals in 16 matches.

His arrival had a big impact as Saad Allazeez, Saudi Pro League’s vice chairman said “The ‘Cristiano Effect’ has definitely been felt. This season has been our biggest yet, with more spectators on match days, more followers and global viewing than ever before.” Along with Ronaldo, other big names like Neymar, Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Aymeric Laporte also signed for Saudi Pro League Clubs. The major influx of big-name football stars to the Kingdom is making Saudi Arabia a major sporting hub.

The Earthquake That Shook The Region

In February, one of the most powerful earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria, considered one of the biggest earthquakes to occur in the region in the past century. With a shocking magnitude of 7.8, it was so strong that it caused tremors that were felt all the way in countries like Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. Just in the first 24 hours, an estimated 5600 buildings were destroyed in Turkey while over 5000 people died in both Turkey and Syria. Later, the total death toll ended up becoming 48,000 in Turkey and 6000 in Syria.

In the midst of the devastation came beautiful moments of humanity and hopeful miracles. One of the most heartwarming moments was when a miracle baby was born under the rubble of a collapsed building in Northern Syria. Along with that, veterinarians put on their heroic cape and traveled 30 miles to reach earthquake-affected farms where they were able to transport 35 animals to Ernesto’s Sanctuary in Idlib City.

Arabs Shooting To Space

The UAE as well as Saudi Arabia have been making big strides in space exploration, achieving major milestones in 2023. When looking at the UAE, so far, not only have they had their very first Emirati astronaut perform a spacewalk, they made an even bigger accomplishment by sending off UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi on the longest space mission to date in the Arab world. He spent 6 months at the International Space Station (ISS) where he performed 200 experiments including human cell growth in space as well as tissue chip research on heart, brain, and cartilage functions.

Along with the UAE, Saudi Arabia also dove into the world of space exploration after sending out the Kingdom’s first-ever female astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi and male astronaut Ali Al-Qarni to the ISS. This is not the Kingdom’s first dip into space exploration as it not only launched several satellites, it also funded several research initiatives as well as established the Saudi Space Commission.

Arab First Times In The Fashion World

Beyond sports and space, Arabs have also made their mark in the fashion world by launching their first-ever Dubai Fashion Week but topping it off with the world’s first Egypt Fashion Week. Co-founded by Dubai Design District and the Arab Fashion Council, Dubai Fashion Week proved to be the ultimate fashion event for emerging talents and established brands. Placing innovation at the forefront, the designs were super eclectic as Dubai-based BHYPE showcased its latest in vintage street fashion while Amato slayed the runaway in shimmering dresses adorned in crystals with models akin to metallic goddesses.

Egypt Fashion Week also made major noise, making a first-time appearance in Egypt under the theme “Past, Present and Future”, paying a major tribute to Egypt’s rich heritage and civilization. The event truly weaved into Egypt’s heritage as the opening gala was held at the Egyptian Museum. Shining a spotlight on local fashion, the event celebrated Egyptian fashion, accessories and jewelry designers including designs from local and international fashion schools like The Azza Fahmy Design Studio, Fashion & Design Center and Cairo Design District.

A Rollercoaster Of Surprises During Ramadan Season

As with every year, the Ramadan TV show 30-day extravaganza brings some of the finest in television to the homes of Arab families during the holy month. 2023 was no exception as this year, some shows were so groundbreaking to the point of changing laws. Mona Zaki’s “Taht El Wesaya” placed the spotlight on a woman who after the sudden death of her husband, had to not only struggle to provide for her kids but also fight the repercussions of the controversial guardianship law in Egypt. The law states that when a father dies, legal guardianship goes to the paternal grandfather. The major success of the show and its focus on the law prompted two Egyptian MPs to call for a review of the country’s guardianship law.

Along with that, Ramadan season introduced us to a refreshing and powerful look at the inner workings of a complicated marriage through the highly successful “El Harsha El Sabaa”. Along with that, we got to meet a special roster of first-time actors including belly dancer Badra’s feisty role in “Kamel El Adad”, Egyptian spoken word poet Hisham Algakh’s unique role in “Sero El Bateaa” as well as the surprising delight that is Dubai-based Roya Hashemi in “El Harsha El Sabaa”.

The Arab Royal Wedding Of The Season

Marking what is probably the most historical moment for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is the Crown Prince Hussein’s royal wedding. The whole world tuned in to catch a glimpse of the royal nuptials that saw Prince Hussien marrying future Crown Princess of Jordan Rajwa Al Saif, an occasion that was live-streamed around the world. It was a truly breathtaking royal affair that saw the likes of international royal guests in attendance including the unannounced appearance of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Via Tatler

The entire wedding exemplified Arab excellence from the bride’s radiant custom white gown designed by Lebanese designer Ellie Saab to the wedding itself that took place at the majestic gardens of Zahran Palace, the wedding venue of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania back in 1993. Even the procession was a true sight as the wedding party processed through the streets to the modern Al Husseiniya Palace, where the newlyweds enjoyed an evening banquet with a guest list of 1,700.

Biggest Moments Of Solidarity In Gaza

Closing into the end of the year, the entire world was put at a standstill since October 7, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel fueling a tragic and ongoing genocide that plagued Gaza. Today, more than 17,000 Palestinians died, martyrs to an occupation that lasted more than 75 years. The ongoing terror brought with it a glimmer of hope as it opened the floodgates for a massive and global show of unique solidarity. From Norway’s shrouded die-in that saw hundreds laid on the floor of Oslo Central Station covered in bloodied shrouds to a jet ski blockade at Sydney’s Port Botany where a flurry of jet skies gathered in front of the ship in a united attempt to stop it from shipping weapons to Israel.

Along with the global solidarity, there were many unsung heroes within war-stricken Gaza. From doctors like Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah who relied on flashlights to perform major operations to young Palestinian journalists like Motaz Azazia risking their lives every day to document what is happening on ground. Major public figures also took a stand including Egyptian comedian and TV personality Bassem Youssef who constantly took an unorthodox approach in his support of Palestine including his face-to-face debate with Pierce Morgan where he unashamedly used dark humor and political satire to prove the injustice of the genocide.

Arab Films Shining In International Festival Circuit

As with every year, Arab filmmakers continued to excel at the craft of storytelling, creating masterpieces that have taken over the film festival circuit. Starting with the one of the most widely acclaimed award ceremonies in the cinematic world, the Oscars. This year, many Arab films were celebrated and recognized with Moroccan filmmaker, Maryam Touzani’s “The Blue Caftan” short-listed for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film as well as Egyptian-Swedish filmmaker, Tarik Saleh’s “Cairo Conspiracy” nominated for the same award.

Along with the Oscars, many Arab films also dominated the renowned 76th edition of the historic and iconic Cannes Film Festival where many Arab filmmakers were celebrated. One of the coolest happenings of this year’s Cannes was how Sudan made its debut in the festival through the premiere of “Goodbye Julia” by Sudanese filmmaker, Mohamed Kordofani. Along with that, Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Kaouther Ben Hania made waves through her heart-wrenching documentary “Four Daughters”.  

Taking a look back at 2023, you’ll feel all sorts of emotions, from sorrow over the devastating events in Gaza to pride over the major accomplishments of the Arab world including the major strides it achieved in space exploration.

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