From John Travolta to Salman Khan: here are 10 key moments of the 2022 Joy Awards

Event honours the best efforts from the Arab film, music and television industry

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The Arab entertainment industry finally has an award befitting its stature.

Returning bigger and better for the first time since its inaugural event in 2019, the 2022 Joy Awards brought together what could possibly be the biggest gathering of the Arab music and film worlds under one roof at the Baker Al Sheddi Theatre on Riyadh’s Boulevard.

Organised by Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority and broadcasted live on MBC 1, the epic, three-hour event saw more than 20 artists awarded in various fields including music, film, television and social media.

A number of tribute awards were also handed out in celebration of brilliant careers.

Two such awards were given to the evening’s biggest international guests: Hollywood and Bollywood screen stars John Travolta and Salman Khan.

The event also included some fiercely contested categories, with results that are likely to stir up debate for months.

Here are 10 of the key moments from the 2022 Joy Awards:

1. Ladies rule the Arab pop world

You can always tell the biggest awards by how late in the ceremony they are presented.

And things were no different at Thursday night's Joy Awards, when a little after the three-hour mark, at 1am, and after the awards for best male musicians, films and television stars were presented, came the big gong — Most Favourite Female Artist.

The move not only proves that it's women who lead the Arabic pop music world, but that the music they offer is more diverse and rewarding than the conservative approach of their male counterparts.

Emirati pop star Ahlam was in the running alongside Syria’s Assala Nasri as well as Lebanese pop stars Nancy Ajram and Elissa.

All four artists have built their own sound spanning Khaleeji and Levant folk as well radio-friendly pop.

In what is arguably a surprise, it was Nasri that came out on top.

Despite releasing less material than fellow nominees — all of whom produced new albums within the past 18 months — her devoted fan base and regular tours in the Mena region pushed her to the podium.

“I don’t know what to say,” she stammered when accepting the award. “I love you all.”

Ajram didn't leave empty-handed however — her track Salamat won Most Favourite Song.

Iraqi crooner Majid Al Mohandis won Favourite Male Artist in a category including Lebanon’s Wael Kfoury, Bahrain’s Rashid Al Majid and Egypt’s Mohammed Hamaki.

2. Egyptian comedy shined

Egyptian comedies were the big winners at the Joy Awards, with 2021's Wa'fet Regala, reportedly the highest grossing film in Saudi Arabia to date, picked up the Most Favourite Film award.

Starring Bayoumi Fouad and Maged El Kedwany, the plot follows a group of friends on an adventure trip gone wrong.

In accepting the prize on behalf of the cast, Fouad described the achievement as “a win for comedy”.

“It is great and important for this genre to be acknowledged among other genres on such an important stage as this.”

Egyptian comic Mohammed Henedi picked up the Favourite Actor award for El Ens W El Nems.

3. A gathering of stars

The Joy Awards made Arab pop music history with a first ever joint performance by a trio of titans.

Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir kicked off the musical relay with crowd favourite Ahibini Bala Ukad before giving the stage to Egyptian crooner Hany Shaker with his rendition of Ally El Dehkayah.

Closing off the 10-minute set was Mohammed Abdu.

The Saudi veteran had the home crowd on its feet with a soulful take of hit Leyla Leyla.

4. John Travolta’s message to Saudi youth

John Travolta added some Hollywood glamour to the ceremony as he received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It has certainly been an adventure,” he said, describing his near five-decade career.

“All I want to say to the Saudi people and particularly the younger generation, keep dreaming more and more because from what I can see, your dreams will come true,” he said.

“Never regret yesterday, your life is within you today and you can dream your tomorrows.”

5. The King of Bollywood: Salman Khan

Salman Khan also had a chance to reflect on his celebrated career when he was awarded Personality of the Year.

“You saw me when I was about 12 years old and now I am 56,” he said, in reference to the screened segment of career highlights.

“Today, my journey starts again because I like to entertain people. The growth that I see here in Saudi Arabia is phenomenal and everyone is so happy. God bless you, Mashallah.”

6. Ramez Galal reveals his favourite prank target

The Egyptian comedian received a special award for consistently high ratings for his celebrity prank series, including last year's Ramez Aqlahu Tar and 2020's Ramez Majnun Rasmi.

Galal acknowledged the controversial nature of his MBC shows, apologising to some of his targets in the audience.

He also declared his wish to get Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu on the show. Recognising the slim chance of that happening, he promised the star, also in the audience, he would tell him “everything about the prank beforehand".

7. Fresh talent rewarded

The Joy Awards also acknowledged new music and film talents in the industry.

Egyptian actress Nour Taher won the New Face award in film for her role of Layan, the cold and calculating student in the edgy Netflix drama AlRawabi School for Girls.

Saudi singer Zena Emaad's win in the music category will also serve to build a bigger buzz around her career.

“I am 22 years old and I am only at the beginning,” she said. “To be awarded in front of all these musical giants here is the strongest motivation to continue and I hope my journey continues well.

8. The best speech of the night

Saudi actress Elham Ali brought home the significance of the Joy Awards with a stirring speech after winning Favourite Actress in a Drama Series for Ekhtetaf.

“I never imagined there would be a day that I can stand in my homeland and be awarded,” she said. “I have tears in my eyes to be honoured here.

“This is not an award for Elham only, but for Saudi Arabia and its cultural scene.”

9. A salute to Egypt's best onscreen couple

Another poignant moment arrived when the Joy Awards celebrated the careers and lives of Egyptian actors Samir Ghanem and Dalal Abdel Aziz.

The married couple died three months apart in 2021 and accepting the tribute were their two children, Donia and Amy Ghanem.

“I had a speech prepared but once I saw the video [of my parents], I felt like I had something else to say,” Amy said, battling tears.

“This the first time I really went outside since the passing of Mummy and Poppy and I thank you for all remembering them and their work.”

10. One group that should have got an award

With the Joy Awards' epic length, spare a thought for the children’s choir who performed a chirpy composition during the ceremony.

Joined by Lebanese composer Oussama Rahbani, they took to the stage a little after midnight for a spirited performance that included choreography.

Hopefully their efforts will be awarded at next year’s event.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 4:52 PM