The biggest moments of any Arabs Got Talent episode always come with tears – and the Saturday night season finale was no exception. When the hosts Qusai and Raya Abirached announced that dancer Salah The Entertainer had won the show's fourth season, the 35-year-old Algerian-Moroccan stood frozen for several seconds, then broke into uncontrollable sobs. By the end of the evening – he was the last to perform – there was little doubt that Salah was the most deserving of the 10 finalists, combining smoothly synchronised moves and incredible flexibility. As a freestyle dancer known for his mastery of hip-hop's popping moves, his command over his body coupled with his technique, skill and facial expressions made him the perfect package.
The Egyptian judge Ahmed Helmy, a comedian and actor, said: “You are a jewel; an artistic jewel. You do something incredibly difficult. You can easily put on a two-hour show without anyone getting bored.”
Salah, a professional dancer with a recurring show in Las Vegas, is a Paris resident who won the France's Got Talent reality TV competition in 2006, but said that his "dream was to compete on Arabs Got Talent".
“I wanted to prove my talent to the Arab world, as an Arab, and to respect my roots,” Salah said ahead of his performance.
Najwa Karam, the Lebanese songstress and the only woman on the four-judge celebrity panel, said to Salah: “You are so adorable, so cute. You make me feel like my heart is dancing from the inside.”
When Salah first auditioned for Arabs Got Talent, the Lebanese judge Ali Jaber, who is dean of the school of journalism at the American University of Dubai and the group TV director of MBC, said: “To have such an international star with Arab origins performing all over the world is something to be proud of. It’s about time you came to the region.” On Saturday night, Jaber was again generous with his praise: “There is no doubt that Salah is one of the most important competitors for the title ... It is a complete talent.”
Another strong contender for the title was 16-year-old Egyptian Yasmina Al Alwani, who shook the stage with her voice minutes before Salah came on.
Salah, who calls Al Alwani his "Egyptian sister", has posted several pictures of himself with the teenage girl on his Instagram account. On Saturday night, however, the two friends went head to head. Al Alwani stuck to her winning formula and again chose a song by the great Egyptian singer Umm Kalthoum. Dominating the stage in a beautiful red gown, the young contestant sang Al Atlal in a flawless performance accompanied by live musicians.
Both Karam and Helmy gave her a standing ovation and Karam later made her way onto the stage to hug the young girl and announce to the audience: “I am so proud that I am from this Arab world that has such talents.”
Helmy picked up his mobile phone during the live broadcast to vote for Al Alwani via SMS, telling her that her singing gave him “goosebumps”. “As an entire Arab world, we need a voice like yours because we are sick of what we have,” he said.
Jaber had tears in his eyes when he said to her: “Yasmina, one cannot do anything but thank God that Egypt exists and produces such greatness.”
The Saudi judge and actor Nasser Al Qasabi, while commenting on Salah’s act, made a reference to Yasmina, citing her powerful performance: “Salah, you have the ability to do everything. You are the perfect act to end our wonderful fourth season. Today, you are no less than Yasmina, who also grabbed the lights in an extraordinary way.”
The winner takes it all
Salah was presented with 500,000 Saudi riyals (Dh490,000) and a Chrysler 300. He will also go on a trip to London to watch the filming of Britain's Got Talent and meet the media executive Simon Cowell, the creator of the worldwide, multimillion-dollar Got Talent franchise.
Al Alwani was also a winner of sorts. Following her performance, and once the applause died down, Karam made a vow to the young singer: “Ever since this programme started, I’ve always dreamt I would find a talent that would take part in a duet and a music video with me and today, Yasmina, I give you this promise: you and I will be working together in the near future.”
Jaber rounded off the night by telling the contestants that they were all winners in his eyes.
“In this programme, MBC has shown the entire world the truth about the Arab world and the truth about Arabs in this region and worldwide,” he said. “We are these people, not the ones you are shown in the media. We are Arabs who love art, we are part of the humanitarian artistic movement. You finalists are all stars, no one can remove this stardom from you.”
• On Saturday, the all-new season of The X Factor Middle East will replace Arabs Got Talent on MBC4 at 10pm