DUBAI // In an age when so many of the tales told about the Arab world are tinged with despair, there was at least one night set aside to celebrate some good.
That’s what the audience wanted, and they came by the thousands to see it first hand.
There to hear the inspirational stories were Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.
Some were the relatives, friends and family of those nominated. Others had no connection, and wanted simply to be part of the first Arab Hope Maker Awards.
“It’s something that is unique, different, and truly represents the Arab people,” said Maha Ouda, 32, who works for Medecins Sans Frontieres and travelled to Dubai Studio City for the event.
“I’m here today to listen to people’s stories and to learn … maybe I can do more to contribute.”
The names of 65,000 from across the region were put forward for the Dh1 million prize.
Many were the unsung heroes of this region and future role models – not the kind in music videos or on Instagram, but hard-working people who have made a difference.
Sara, 23, an engineer and sister of Maha, said that she too has always wanted to do more in the humanitarian field.
“I love doing it, I love listening to people’s stories, I love being inspired,” she said.
She hopes Arab Hope Maker will go on to become an event that galvanises the Arab world, if only for one day a year. But if it does not, she felt it had still been worthwhile.
“These people are heroes and should be recognised, especially given recognition is not what they aim for,” she said.
“It is those people who truly deserve being rewarded.”
Mustafa A, 26, said too often the portrayal of Arabs in films, television and the media is one-dimensional.
“If you look at us in most movies and shows, we are either terrorists or dumb characters,” he said.
“Even on the news, it’s all negative. We need to be shown in a new light.”