The Arabs’ affair with Assaf: Arab Idol winner restores Palestinian pride
Having grown up in the Khan Younis refugee camp, Assaf’s story is your classic rags to riches. Earning his keep by singing at weddings across the West Bank, the 23-year-old nearly didn’t make it into the Arab Idol competition. After having trouble with Hamas at the Rafah border, Assaf reached the Cairo Arab Idol auditions late. With no registration number, Assaf sang for those in the queue and struck lucky - a fellow Palestinian loved his voice and gave Assaf his registration number, believing him to have a better chance at winning. Just as well!
Assaf captured the hearts of all who have tuned into Arab Idol across the region with his humble personality, mega-watt smile and powerful lungs, which lend themselves to traditional Arab songs, sentimental Palestinian classics and even the Backstreet Boys.
His weekly performances on the show brought communities together, sitting in the street watching the Gaza-boy-done-good on a projector and cheering him on, pictures of his cheeky grin plastered all over the streets.
He acts as a unifying force for Palestinians everywhere in a time of political unrest. Even the divisive Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged citizens in the West Bank and Gaza to vote for Assaf. "Mohammad Assaf didn't free Palestine," one supporter posted on Twitter. "But he brought joy to people who didn't smile for the past 66 years of occupation."
The impact of Assaf was felt all over the region as his victory was announced - Twitter and Facebook exploded, the Palestinian flag became ubiquitous and car horns mixed with jubilant cries well into the early hours of the morning.
We’re going to take a look at Assaf’s journey, from his early days to being on the brink of superstardom. Where next - peace for Pal?
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