Palestinians in raptures as Yaqoub Shaheen wins Arab Idol TV contest

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Thousands take to streets of West Bank and Gaza to watch and celebrate the win in the hugely popular pan-Middle East show

Palestinians have taken to the street to celebrate the victory of their compatriot Yaqoub Shaheen in the hugely popular Middle East television talent show Arab Idol.

This years final, filmed in Lebanon, was between a Yemeni, Ammar Mohammed, and two Palestinian competitors, Shaheen from Bethlehem and Ameer Dandan.

After he was named as the winner, Shaheen performed a patriotic song while wearing the Palestinian flag on his shoulders, singing the line: My pledge and my oath, my blood is Palestinian.

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Arab Idol winner Yaqoub Shaheen, centre, with Yemeni contestant Ammar Mohammed (left) and fellow Palestinian Amir Dandan on stage during the final on Saturday. Photograph: Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

In Gaza and in the occupied West Bank thousands of people had filled restaurants and street coffee shops, many of them having reserved their seats in advance, in order to watch the final on large public screens.

It is a national day. A national historic day for Palestine, said Mohammed Abu Ali, 40, sitting with his wife and three children in a cafe in Gaza watching the final.

People watching the show in public hugged one another, cheered and whistled as Shaheen was named the 2017 Arab Idol.

Dozens of taxi drivers touring the streets across Gaza honked their horns and played some of the songs performed by Shaheen during the weeks-long programme.

The winner of the show, based on the British show Pop Idol, is chosen by the audience, which votes by text message. Palestinian and Yemeni politicians urged supporters to vote in support of their favoured candidates and phone companies offered special deals to encourage voting.

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Palestinians celebrate Yaqoub Shaheens victory in Bethlehem on Saturday night. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, the first night of the final, a high-profile Palestinian delegation led by the presidents son attended the show at the MBC studios in Beirut.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Lebanon for an official visit, hosted the three finalists at his embassys residence.

Inside the studio many Yemenis were also present for the final, wearing traditional clothes in support of Mohammed and chanting and dancing, but to no avail.

There are faces of victory, political and musical. Today it is musical, but we hope one day we will have our political victory, said Abu Ali, the Palestinian man celebrating with his family in Gaza.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/26/palestinians-in-raptures-as-yaqoub-shaheen-wins-arab-idol-tv-contest

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