Scorching Middle East cools off with the Ice Bucket Challenge

Published August 25th, 2014 - 07:48 GMT

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Gigi Hadid
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Image 1 of 17: Lebanese model Gigi Hadid skipped the ice and ordered her ALS Ice Bucket Challenge “straight up”. She challenged model Sara Sampaio, crooners Joe Jonas and Michael Buble to join the craze, then posted on Twitter that - if he wasn't on tour - she’d have nominated ex-boyfriend Cody Simpson. She later deleted that tweet. Cold feet, Gigi?

Ahmed Hossam
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Image 1 of 17: Former Egypt footballer “Mido” Ahmed Hossam took the challenge on his balcony - hope no one was walking below! The new manager of Zamalek’s youth sector then paid it forward and nominated pop star Amr Diab and former teammates Hazem Emam and Mohamed Barakat.

Haifa Wehbe
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Image 1 of 17: Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe blasted past the “one bucket” requirement and got soaked by three! “I would like to nominate Rihanna, Bassam Fattouh and Tarik Freitekh,” she said before self-icing. Pals then emptied another two on her head.

Marouane Fellaini
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Image 1 of 17: We’re not sure Marouane Fellaini had a choice when he was dumped by Manchester United, but he fully embraced getting dumped on by ice! The giant Belgian/Moroccan is one of many big-hearted athletes who braved the chill for the cause. He nominated his former Red Devils boss David Moyes to take the plunge.

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Image 1 of 17: Ice buckets are flying in Lebanon’s restaurants and cafes, with entire kitchen and wait staff lining up for a soaking. The full crew of Tripoli’s popular Al-Hallab sweet shop was filmed for the store’s Facebook page - and they nominated Roadster Diner, Zaatar w Zeit and Crepaway to follow suit. Just keep that water off my knefe!

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Image 1 of 17: Two of the hosts from Lebanese comedy channel “UF Chou Laziz” did the dousing deal, then nominated bloggers Najib Mitri from Blog Baladi and Gino Raidy from Gino’s blog. Lebanon leads by far in the Mideast “bucket brigade”!

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Image 1 of 17: Moroccan kickboxer Badr Hari refused to be iced, citing Palestine as a worthier cause. “I am NOT gonna take place in...commercial bullshit. Everyone closes their eyes...about Palestine. Well, I’m closing my eyes for the Ice Bucket Challenge too,” he said on Facebook, attracting 21,382 likes and big debate. He deleted the post, but point made!

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Image 1 of 17: Dubai’s 7DAYS assistant editor Duncan Hare beat the heat with a shower of ice cubes. “It was absolutely fffrreeezing despite being in 41°C heat, but we’re happy to take part for a good cause. He taunted his nominees - columnist Derek Whyte, Dubai TV presenter Katie Fielder and Meydan Golf marketer James Leeman - with, “Beat what we did!”

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Image 1 of 17: The director of “Star Wars: Episode VII” yelled “Cut!” so he could take time out of Abu Dhabi filming to be soaked with ice by his kids. Director J.J. Abrams later revealed his grandfather suffered from the disease.

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Image 1 of 17: “I thank those who nominated me for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and I would like to nominate Ragheb, Melissa and Ahlam,” said Lebanese pop star Najwa Karam, before screeching while being drenched in ice cold water. At least we think it was her - the grainy video is probably the worst quality upload on offer so far!

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Image 1 of 17: A tsunami of Tunisian celebs joined in after actress and singer Manel Amara poured the slushy mix on her head. She dared radio and TV presenter Nizar Chaari to match her chops. He was game, and passed the baton to comic Lotfi Abdelli, President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki and actress Ben Meriem Hussein.

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Image 1 of 17: Lebanese TV show host Nishan did the deed, then called on singer Nancy Ajram, TV host Tony Khalifa, and Syrian actor Abed Fahd to follow his frosty lead.

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Image 1 of 17: Who are you calling “chicken”? Lebanese pop icon Nancy Ajram explained, “I would like to tell everyone who nominated me for the Ice Bucket Challenge to withdraw the nomination. I would rather donate instead, that way I’ll be relieved.” (As will be her hairdresser!)

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Image 1 of 17: Five-time Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is a busy man, so an anonymous someone did a bit of digital work to allow the elderly politician to take the plunge. It’s good to see this cancer survivor come out in support of a cure for another horrific disease, if only in cartoon-form!

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Image 1 of 17: The US State Dept. threw a wet blanket on the fun with an internal message forbidding US ambassadors and foreign service staff from participating. Obviously former Prez George W. Bush didn’t get that memo! (Prez Obama declined a dare from the 86-year-old widow of Robert F. Kennedy, pledging cash instead - um, Barry, have you met Ms. Ajram?)

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Image 1 of 17: Website Kuwaitful features five videos of regular guys getting soaked with plain water. With summer temperatures hovering at 45°C (113°F), these gents can be forgiven for not having easy access to ice!

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Image 1 of 17: But the movement’s breakout star is 26-year-old photographer Anthony Carbajal. Recently diagnosed with ALS, he posted his own video to YouTube garnering nearly 11 million views in under a week! It’s correctly billed as "the last Ice Bucket Challenge video you will ever need to watch." You can’t fail to be moved (or to act) watching this one.

Unless you’ve had your head under a bucket, you’ve seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - now making a splash across the Middle East!

It’s the charity stunt that dumps freezing water and ice on billionaires and beauty queens, pop stars and presidents (and everyone in between!) aiming to raise awareness and money to cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This horrific illness affects the brain and the spinal cord - knocking out your ability to walk, chew and breathe, eventually leading to total paralysis. It’s progressive and fatal, and right now there is no cure.

The challenge works like this: people film themselves being doused with frigid water, upload the footage to social media, and nominate others to do the same within 24 hours.  Nominees can accept the challenge (repeat the stunt and pop a $10 donation to an ALS charity of their choice) or opt to stay dry, but that bumps your promised contribution up to $100. Those figures are notional, but you get the idea - pay to take a pass!

Naysayers complain that Middle East celebs are diverting charitable attention from ballooning refugee populations resulting from the Gaza crisis and fallout from civil wars in Syria and Iraq. Others bemoan senseless water wastage in our uber-parched region. But fundraising is a competitive sport, so kudos to anyone who cracks the code on attracting big money and continued interest for such a terrifying and depressing subject.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is brilliant marketing that can be applied to any cause célèbre.  This newest form of crowdsourcing (essentially a “wet-t-shirt-contest-gone-wild”) appeals to masses of deep-pocketed people with spare time and a smartphone. Why limit your narcissism to a “selfie” when you can star in a (well, at least you find it) funny video? Frivolity masks the mission’s seriousness - a spoon of sugar to help the medicine go down.

The benefits of awareness and funding outweigh the critique. As of Saturday morning, The ALS Association had received $62.5 million in donations compared to $2.4 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 23). More critically, they claim that people who had never heard of ALS are now engaged in the fight to find treatments and a cure.

Support the cause if it moves you.  Learn more about the issues. But remember that the star is ALS, not the knucklehead who’s dripping wet.

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