What’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2023? Hint: Be True to Yourself 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP)
TT

What’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2023? Hint: Be True to Yourself 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP)

In an age of deepfakes and post-truth, as artificial intelligence rose and Elon Musk turned Twitter into X, the Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2023 is “authentic.”

Authentic cuisine. Authentic voice. Authentic self. Authenticity as artifice. Lookups for the word are routinely heavy on the dictionary company's site but were boosted to new heights throughout the year, editor at large Peter Sokolowski told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

“We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity,” he said ahead of Monday's announcement of this year's word. “What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”

Sokolowski and his team don't delve into the reasons people head for dictionaries and websites in search of specific words. Rather, they chase the data on lookup spikes and world events that correlate. This time around, there was no particularly huge boost at any given time but a constancy to the increased interest in “authentic.”

This was the year of artificial intelligence, for sure, but also a moment when ChatGPT-maker OpenAI suffered a leadership crisis. Taylor Swift and Prince Harry chased after authenticity in their words and deeds. Musk himself, at February's World Government Summit in Dubai, urged the heads of companies, politicians, ministers and other leaders to “speak authentically” on social media by running their own accounts.

“Can we trust whether a student wrote this paper? Can we trust whether a politician made this statement? We don't always trust what we see anymore,” Sokolowski said. “We sometimes don't believe our own eyes or our own ears. We are now recognizing that authenticity is a performance itself."

Merriam-Webster's entry for “authentic” is busy with meaning.

There is “not false or imitation: real, actual,” as in an authentic cockney accent. There's “true to one's own personality, spirit or character.” There's “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” There is “made or done the same way as an original.” And, perhaps the most telling, there's “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features.”

“Authentic” follows 2022’s choice of “gaslighting.” And 2023 marks Merriam-Webster’s 20th anniversary choosing a top word.

The company’s data crunchers filter out evergreen words like “love” and “affect” vs. “effect” that are always high in lookups among the 500,000 words it defines online. This year, the wordsmiths also filtered out numerous five-letter words because Wordle and Quordle players clearly use the company’s site in search of them as they play the daily games, Sokolowski said.

Sokolowski, a lexicologist, and his colleagues have a bevy of runners-up for word of the year that also attracted unusual traffic. They include “X” (lookups spiked in July after Musk's rebranding of Twitter), “EGOT” (there was a boost in February when Viola Davis achieved that rare quadruple-award status with a Grammy) and “Elemental,” the title of a new Pixar film that had lookups jumping in June.

Rounding out the company's top words of 2023, in no particular order:

RIZZ: Slang for “romantic appeal or charm" and seemingly short for charisma. Merriam-Webster added the word to its online dictionary in September and it's been among the top lookups since, Sokolowski said.

KIBBUTZ: There was a massive spike in lookups for “a communal farm or settlement in Israel” after Hamas militants attacked several near the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7. The first kibbutz in Israel was founded circa 1909.

IMPLODE: The June 18 implosion of the Titan submersible on a commercial expedition to explore the Titanic wreckage sent lookups soaring for this word, meaning “to burst inward.” “It was a story that completely occupied the world,” Sokolowski said.

DOPPEL GANGER: Sokolowski calls this “a word lover's word.” Merriam-Webster defines it as a “double,” an “alter ego” or a “ghostly counterpart.” It derives from German folklore. Interest in the word surrounded Naomi Klein's latest book, “Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World,” released this year. She uses her own experience of often being confused with feminist author and conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf as a springboard into a broader narrative on the crazy times we're all living in.

CORONATION: King Charles III had one on May 6, sending lookups for the word soaring 15,681% over the year before, Sokolowski said. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act or occasion of crowning.”

DEEPFAKE: The dictionary company's definition is “an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said.” Interest spiked after Musk’s lawyers in a Tesla lawsuit said he is often the subject of deepfake videos and again after the likeness of Ryan Reynolds appeared in a fake, AI-generated Tesla ad.

DYSTOPIAN: Climate chaos brought on interest in the word. So did books, movies and TV fare intended to entertain. “It's unusual to me to see a word that is used in both contexts,” Sokolowski said.

COVENANT: Lookups for the word meaning “a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement” swelled on March 27, after a deadly mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooter was a former student killed by police after killing three students and three adults.

Interest also spiked with this year's release of “Guy Ritchie's The Covenant” and Abraham Verghese's long-awaited new novel, “The Covenant of Water,” which Oprah Winfrey chose as a book club pick.

More recently, soon after US Rep. Mike Johnson ascended to House speaker, a 2022 interview with the Louisiana congressman recirculated. He discussed how his teen son was then his “accountability partner” on Covenant Eyes, software that tracks browser history and sends reports to each partner when porn or other potentially objectionable sites are viewed.

INDICT: Former President Donald Trump has been indicted on felony charges in four criminal cases in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C., in addition to fighting a lawsuit threatening his real estate empire.



Saudi Press Agency, Sky News Arabia Sign Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
TT

Saudi Press Agency, Sky News Arabia Sign Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)

The Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in the field of news training, SPA said on Friday.
Assistant Minister of Media Dr. Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Maghlouth attended Thursday's signing ceremony which took place during the Human Capability Initiative (HCI) in Riyadh.
The HCI is held under the patronage of Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister and Chairman of Human Capability Development Program Committee Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
The program seeks to realize Saudi Vision 2030.
The agreement focuses on the specialized courses offered by the academy in the field of news, exchange of expertise, and utilization of technology.


Jeddah Middle Corniche Closed 10 Days for Maintenance

People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
TT

Jeddah Middle Corniche Closed 10 Days for Maintenance

People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

The Jeddah Governorate Municipality announced that the waterfront on the middle Corniche will be closed starting next Sunday, March 3, for 10 days for maintenance and preparation work.

The municipality explained that the closure of the waterfront comes out of its concern for the safety and health of visitors during the maintenance work for the facilities at the waterfront, SPA reported.

The closure includes the seating and picnic areas, starting from Al-Anani Mosque to Palestine Street.
The maintenance work includes rehabilitating the entire plantings of the waterfront project on the Middle Corniche and the Palestine Street walkway, repairing sidewalks, and cleaning and equipping fountains and lighting poles.


Saudi Medical Team Begins Separating Nigerian Conjoined Twins

The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
TT

Saudi Medical Team Begins Separating Nigerian Conjoined Twins

The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA

A Saudi medical and surgical team began on Thursday separating Nigerian conjoined twins Hassana and Hasina at King Abdullah Specialist Children's Hospital in King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.

The separation is in implementation of the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

Following their arrival in Riyadh on October 31, the twins underwent extensive examinations, which revealed they share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.

The surgery will be performed in nine stages and is expected to take approximately 14 hours.

A team of 38 consultants, specialists, technicians, and nursing staff in the specialties of anesthesia, pediatric surgery, urology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, and pediatric neurosurgery will participate in the operation.

According to Advisor at the Royal Court, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), and head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the success rate of the operation is 70%.

This is the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating Siamese twins.

Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 conjoined twins from 25 countries.
Al Rabeeah expressed gratitude to the Saudi leadership for its support of the program.


Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Could Affect Heart Health, New Study

(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
TT

Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Could Affect Heart Health, New Study

(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

A new British study, involving 500,000 adults, has found that living near fast food restaurants could harm the health of the heart.

These kinds of ready-to-eat food environments typically provide unhealthy foods and drinks, and have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, mostly heart failure. The findings were published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. In this case, fluids can accumulate in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. This condition can lead to narrowing the heart arteries and raising blood pressure.

This study is likely the first to assess the association between food environment and heart failure with long-term observation, according to the researchers.

The study involved more than 500,000 adults, ages 37-73 years old, in the UK.

During the research, the team measured the link between living within one-kilometer from three types of food environments — pubs or bars, restaurants or cafeterias and fast-food restaurants.

The study documented nearly 13,000 heart failure cases during a 12-year follow-up period.

The analysis found that a closer proximity and a greater density of ready-to-eat food outlets were associated with a 16% risk of heart failure compared to those with no ready-to-eat food environments near their homes.

It also found that those in the highest density areas of pubs and bars showed a 14% higher risk for heart failure; while those in the highest density areas for fast-food outlets had a 12% higher risk.

Heart failure risk was stronger among participants without a college degree and adults in urban areas without access to formal physical activity facilities such as gyms.

According to the researchers, these findings add to previous studies that have suggested that exposure to ready-to-eat food environments is associated with risks of other disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which may also increase the risk of heart failure.

Authors said the findings suggest that improving access to healthier food environments and physical fitness facilities in urban areas, along with helping more people attain higher levels of education, could reduce the increased risk of heart failure linked to quick-meal options.


Theater Supervisors from Australia Train Saudi School Teachers

Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
TT

Theater Supervisors from Australia Train Saudi School Teachers

Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Saudi Ministry of Culture gives great attention to enhancing arts and culture in the local community, and recognizes the vital role school theater plays in growing the talents and skill of students.

As part of its efforts to promote school theater, the ministry has carried on an initiative aimed at training school teachers on theater arts, with the help of 160 supervisors who provide the guidance and support that schools need to develop and implement theater-related activities.

The School Theater Initiative is one of the top national initiatives launched by the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, as part of a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education, to create a school theater movement aimed at enhancing the theater culture and growing a generation interested in theater.

The commission stated that the initiative will develop and grow the skills of supervisors and teachers through international programs curated by experts in theater and performative arts, in collaboration with Australia’s Monash University. The efforts seek to provide the trainees with the skills needed to fuel the sector with the essential theater elements, including acting, drama, design and direction.

The training program consists of several phases: the first ran from October 2002 until November 2022, during which several visits were paid to schools in Riyadh, to take a closer look at theater activities in the Kingdom and form the training team. The second saw the launch of the training program for the first promotion, including 20 teachers and 40 supervisors, as well as reviewing and assessing the content after the conclusion of the training.

The training started in the third phase, while the fourth, which ran between December 2023 and January 2024, graduated the first promotion of supervisors, who were responsible for training several groups of 20 teachers. The training program of the third and fourth promotions covered the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Abha and Tabuk.

The fifth phase, which has kicked off earlier this year and ends in December, is designed to supervise and support the teachers that will be trained by 160 supervisors, in addition to selecting the best 1,000 school plays from different cities and provinces.


Volcanic Ash Forces Some Airlines to Suspend Flights from Mexico City 

The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
TT

Volcanic Ash Forces Some Airlines to Suspend Flights from Mexico City 

The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)

Mexico City International Airport on Tuesday said airlines have canceled 22 domestic and international flights to carry out safety checks after planes encountered ash from the Popocatepetl volcano while flying toward the capital.

In a post on X, the airport said it remains open and in operation.

"Specialized teams and management remain on alert and are evaluating the ash conditions," the airport said. "At this time, the volcanic ash cloud is heading toward the Gulf of Mexico."

The airport advised travelers to stay informed through their airlines and official airport channels.

The government has issued a "yellow alert" for activity from the nearby volcano, whose name in the Aztec Nahuatl language means "Smoking Mountain."

Authorities earlier on Tuesday said a column of smoke from the volcano was blowing to the north-northwest and could bring ash over the capital.


South Korea’s Fertility Rate Dropped to Fresh Record Low in 2023 

Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
TT

South Korea’s Fertility Rate Dropped to Fresh Record Low in 2023 

Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)

South Korea's fertility rate, already the world's lowest, dropped to a fresh record low in 2023, defying the billions of dollars spent by the country to try to reverse the trend as the population shrank for a fourth straight year.

The average number of expected babies for a South Korean woman during her reproductive life fell to 0.72 from 0.78 in 2022, data from Statistics Korea showed on Wednesday.

Since 2018, South Korea has been the only member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to have a rate below 1.

The South Korean government has made it a national priority to reverse the falling birth rate and in December promised to come up with "extraordinary measures" to tackle the situation.

Meanwhile, ahead of elections in April South Korea's major political parties vowed more public housing and easier loans in an effort to stem population decline, aiming to allay fears of "national extinction" as fertility rates crumble.

The parties' focus on population in their election planks reflects growing alarm after spending of more than 360 trillion won ($270 billion) in areas such as childcare subsidies since 2006 has failed to reverse record low fertility rates.

Being married is seen as a prerequisite to having children in South Korea, but marriages are also falling in the country with high financial burden cited as the main reason.

South Korea is not alone in the region struggling with a rapidly ageing population. The fertility rate in neighboring Japan's hit a record low of 1.26 in 2022, while China recorded 1.09, also a record low.

In South Korea, the capital Seoul had the lowest fertility rate of 0.55 last year.

South Korea has previously projected its fertility rate is likely to fall further to 0.68 in 2024.


Britain's Prince William Pulls Out of Event Due to Personal Matter

20 February 2024, United Kingdom, London: Prince William of Wales visits the headquarters of the British Red Cross, to hear about the humanitarian efforts taking place to support those affected by the conflict in Gaza. Photo: Kin Cheung/PA Wire/dpa
20 February 2024, United Kingdom, London: Prince William of Wales visits the headquarters of the British Red Cross, to hear about the humanitarian efforts taking place to support those affected by the conflict in Gaza. Photo: Kin Cheung/PA Wire/dpa
TT

Britain's Prince William Pulls Out of Event Due to Personal Matter

20 February 2024, United Kingdom, London: Prince William of Wales visits the headquarters of the British Red Cross, to hear about the humanitarian efforts taking place to support those affected by the conflict in Gaza. Photo: Kin Cheung/PA Wire/dpa
20 February 2024, United Kingdom, London: Prince William of Wales visits the headquarters of the British Red Cross, to hear about the humanitarian efforts taking place to support those affected by the conflict in Gaza. Photo: Kin Cheung/PA Wire/dpa

Britain's Prince William has pulled out of attending a memorial service at Windsor Castle for the late King Constantine of Greece because of an unspecified personal matter, his office said Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, the Prince of Wales is no longer able to attend the King Constantine Memorial Service this morning due to a personal matter," Kensington Palace said, according to Reuters.
The palace declined to give any further details, but it comes after his wife Kate, 42, underwent abdominal surgery last month. However, a royal source said Kate was continuing to do well.
Following Kate's operation, William, the 41-year-old heir to the throne, postponed official duties to care for her and their three children, before resuming public engagements earlier this month.
His absence comes as his father King Charles is also absent from his public role as he undergoes treatment for an unspecified form of cancer.
In Charles' absence, his wife Camilla has become the most senior royal performing engagements.


India Announces Four-member Crew for Space Mission

FILE PHOTO: Intuitive Machines' Odysseus spacecraft passes over the near side of the Moon following lunar orbit insertion on February 21, 2024, in this handout image released February 22, 2024. Intuitive Machines/Handout via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Intuitive Machines' Odysseus spacecraft passes over the near side of the Moon following lunar orbit insertion on February 21, 2024, in this handout image released February 22, 2024. Intuitive Machines/Handout via REUTERS
TT

India Announces Four-member Crew for Space Mission

FILE PHOTO: Intuitive Machines' Odysseus spacecraft passes over the near side of the Moon following lunar orbit insertion on February 21, 2024, in this handout image released February 22, 2024. Intuitive Machines/Handout via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Intuitive Machines' Odysseus spacecraft passes over the near side of the Moon following lunar orbit insertion on February 21, 2024, in this handout image released February 22, 2024. Intuitive Machines/Handout via REUTERS

India on Tuesday introduced four crew members for its maiden 'Gaganyaan' space voyage, as it aims to become the world's fourth country to send a crewed mission into space just months after a historic landing on the south pole of the moon.
Gaganyaan, or "sky craft" in Hindi, is the first mission of its kind for India and will cost about 90.23 billion rupees ($1.1 billion). It involves the launch of a habitable space capsule over the next year to an orbit of 400 km (250 miles) and its return via a landing in the Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarded the four crew members, all of them air force officers, "astronaut wings" at a space center in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala state on Tuesday, in their first public appearance after months of rigorous training.
The four officers are Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap and Shubhanshu Shukla, a government statement said.
It was not clear if all four astronauts would be on board the mission, Reuters reported.
Gaganyaan is a "historic" achievement for India, Modi said on X and in a statement, coming four decades after air force officer, Rakesh Sharma, became the first Indian to travel to space - with a Soviet mission.
"Time is ours, countdown is ours and so is the rocket," Modi told space scientists.
Only the United States, Russia, and China have sent their own crewed missions into space.
Astronauts from more than three dozen other countries have made space trips aboard either US or Russian missions.


UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Crowns Four Arab Hope Makers

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum crowned the four Arab Hope Makers finalists, awarding them a financial reward of AED 1 million ($272,000) each. Asharq Al-Awsat
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum crowned the four Arab Hope Makers finalists, awarding them a financial reward of AED 1 million ($272,000) each. Asharq Al-Awsat
TT

UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Crowns Four Arab Hope Makers

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum crowned the four Arab Hope Makers finalists, awarding them a financial reward of AED 1 million ($272,000) each. Asharq Al-Awsat
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum crowned the four Arab Hope Makers finalists, awarding them a financial reward of AED 1 million ($272,000) each. Asharq Al-Awsat

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, crowned the four Arab Hope Makers finalists, awarding them a financial reward of AED 1 million ($272,000) each.

Sheikh Mohammed awarded the title of the 4th season of the Arab Hope Makers, the largest initiative of its kind in the Arab region celebrating philanthropists, to Tala al-Khalil, who received the highest number of votes during the ceremony. He also directed that all four finalists be awarded the same title, including Mohamed al-Najjar from Iraq, Amine Imnir from Morocco and Fathiya al-Mahmoud from Egypt.

“In our part of the world, hope making is life making. The only way we can overcome challenges is through collaborative efforts. Hope for a better future is what keeps people going. Every new generation bears the responsibility of creating a better reality in their communities,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“Spreading despair is our major challenge, which is why we need to continue to nurture hope, optimism and positivity among the new generation,” he added.

Sheikh Mohammed awarded the top Arab Hope Makers title to Tala al-Khalil for her initiative to mentally support and heal children with Down Syndrome and cancer.

Mohmmad Al Gergawi, secretary general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), said the Hope Makers initiative reflects the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid of instilling the culture of giving across the Arab world, while celebrating those who launch life-changing initiatives that target communities and inspire the new generation to create a better future.

“The 4th season of Hope Makers unveiled a number of unique charity initiatives that serve Arab communities and help thousands of people around the world. More than 58,000 Arab hope makers have proved that our region enjoys a wealth of philanthropists, who renew our faith in our ability to become a global model of giving and philanthropy, regardless of color, race or religion,” he added.

Gergawi affirmed that the Hope Makers Initiative will continue to support voluntary work aiming to improve the quality of life across Arab communities, and to celebrate efforts serving vulnerable populations and alleviating their suffering, in line with MBRGI’s objectives of promoting a culture of hope and nurturing innovative ideas that can be transformed into sustainable projects in the Arab World.

The closing ceremony saw the participation of several Arab celebrities, including Ahlam, Hussain Al Jassmi and Assala, alongside artists and media personalities.

It also featured a new version of the ‘Arab Dream’ operetta, which was renewed by the Hope Makers Initiative, in collaboration with 12 artists including Ahlam, Majid al-Muhandis, Assala, Saber Rebai and Balqees.

Among the participations was the initiative of Iraqi Dr. Mohamed al-Najjar, 37, who lost his leg in 2014. He formed a football team of amputees, and worked with its players (aged between 14 and 40 years) to take part in many international, friendly games. The team qualified for the 2022 Amputee Football World Cup in Türkiye last October, won over Uruguay, Ireland and Germany, and lost three games. Thanks to these accomplishments, the Iraqi team now ranks 19th globally out of 70 amputee football teams.

From Morocco, Amine Imnir has recruited his social media accounts to improve living conditions for underprivileged Moroccans. He has led charitable campaigns and initiatives, and organized many relief campaigns to distribute aid to those in need in the country.

His AFTAS Society for Development and Solidarity distributed 800 sacrifices among poor families since 2020, dug 100 wells and provided over 1,000 solar panels, as well as more than 4,500 food parcels to underprivileged families including widows and orphans, funded 217 surgeries in 2023, and planted 2,800 fruitful trees.

Known as ‘the mother of orphans’ or ‘Mama Fathiya’, Egyptian hope maker Fathiya al-Mahmoud is an inspiring example of selfless giving and hope. Failing to have children of her own after 30 years of marriage, she decided to adopt 34 orphan girls. With the aid of her husband, they took care of raising, educating and nurturing the girls using their own savings.

The story of Iraqi pharmacist Tala al-Khalil started when a mother asked her for help to convince her child eat and take his treatment. This moment was a turning point in Tala’s life.

She launched her journey as a Hope Maker in 2015, when she started receiving young cancer patients in a special ‘caravan’ at the Basra Children’s Hospital to help them overcome challenges.

Offering much-needed psychological support to the children, Tala is a strong believer in the role of good mental health in enhancing immunity and the body’s ability to fight illness. She also used art to boost the immunity of children with cancer and Down Syndrome.

The Hope Makers Initiative welcomed over 300,000 Arab Hope Makers in four editions, which highlights a significant eagerness among Arabs for giving and hope nurturing.