On Saturday, Syria’s Hazem Sharif was crowned Arab Idol 2014, the most watched show in the Middle East, beating off his two rivals Palestinian Haitham Khalailah and Majid al-Madani from Saudi Arabia.
Judges Ahlam, from the United Arab Emirates, Lebanese singers Nancy Ajram and Wael Kfouri and Hassan Al Shafeei, an Egyptian music production expert, all cheered as Sharif accepted the award, the third winner since the popular contest came to television screens in 2011.
On Friday, the contestants sang one last time at the Beirut studio staging the MBC program, scrambling for votes from audiences across the region.
The Syrians were united in cheering Sharif's victory. Both loyalists and dissidents put up Sharif's images and considered his victory a victory for Syria.
Hazem did not carry the Syrian flag as winners usually do in this program. Some explained the reason was that he did not want to carry either of the two flags that represent the regime or the opposition.
The winner of the Arab world’s leading singing competition will be awarded a cash prize of 250,000 Saudi riyals (just over $66,000), as well as a contract with Platinum Records, the production of three singles and a video clip.
The winner will also get a trip to the Seychelles courtesy of Emirates airline, a main sponsor of the show this year.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer