From astounding athletes breaking records to Pink Floyd’s surprising artist of choice, 2014 brimmed with moments that made Arabs proud. In a year where conflicts dominated the headlines, these 9 achievements are a colorful reminder that this, too, was 2014.

1. When the Algerian national team donated their World Cup prize to GazaThe decision was so surprising that many thought it was a false rumor. After being defeated by Germany in one of the World Cup’s most intense matches, the team announced they would donate the prize, estimated in about USD 9 million, to the victims of Gaza.

2. When an Egyptian 18-year-old designed Pink Floyd´s mythic comeback album cover. The day the legendary rock band announced their comeback, 20 years after their separation, nobody expected to see young Emad Eldin, an unknown Arab artist based in Cairo, selected for its enigmatic design.

3. When not one, but three Egyptians topped the World Squash rankings. At the last US Open 2014, Egyptians were brimming with pride as the world’s top first, Mohamed El-Shorbagy, defeated his fellow countryman Amr Shabana, while the young Egyptian female talent Nour El-Sherbini reached the finals as well. El-Shorbagy would later also win the Qatar PSA World Championship.

4. When Palestinian Film Omar was nominated to the OscarsAlthough the prize was taken by Italy’s “The Great Beauty”, its nomination is the first ever listed as having Palestinian country of origin, representing an important step for Palestinian recognition.

5. When Ahmed Gabr broke the world diving record. With an impressive 14-hour dive, the Egyptian scuba diver reached 332.35 meters in the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea, off the coast of Dahab in South Sinai.

6. When these 5 artists showed the world what war can never killFrom the “alchemist” who transforms pieces of war shells into works of art, to Gaza’s little Picasso, these artists raised over the rubble of Gaza´s destroyed neighborhoods to show the world Palestinians’ irrepressible “talent for life”.

7. When Mohammad Assaf sang at the FIFA Congress in Brazil, and then won an MTV EMA. As the 20th Annual World Cup unfolded last June, the Palestinian singer was invited by the President of FIFA to perform at the opening ceremony of the organization´s 64th Congress in Brazil.

8. When this Saudi scientist became the first foreign woman awarded by the American Physical Society. Specialized in Astrophysics, Medical and Nuclear Physics and with two PhD, Ibtesam Saeed Badhrees was not only the first and only Saudi woman to join the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), but also the first non-American woman to receive an APS recognition.

9. When this girl, these little kids, and these young refugees from Zaatari persisted in fighting for their education despite living in extreme circumstances. These stories, each one worthy of praise and pride, show who the real heroes of the Middle East are.

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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