It was a difficult year but there were bright spots

Rym Ghazal considers 2016's ups and downs

There were space advancements in 2016 from discovering a new planet dubbed Proxima b to the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves and various technological advancements in transport. AFP Photo
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There are two words to describe many people’s reaction to the end of 2016: Good riddance.

For the Middle East, it was another year of great losses and instability for nations such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Turkey and Yemen. We continue to witness one of history’s largest refugee crises, with some organisations calling 2016 the year of the refugees.

Around the world there have been several shake ups, such as Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, the election of Donald Trump in the United States and extremist attacks from Thailand to Orlando.

To add insult to injury, the world lost a number of famous people this year. From boxing legend Muhammed Ali to Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, and several celebrities such as musicians Prince, David Bowie and George Michael and actors Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher and Zsa Zsa Gabor (who was actually famous for being famous).

The Middle East lost some of its larger-than-life icons as well, including Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, veteran Lebanese musician Melhem Barakat, Egyptian stars Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, and Egypt’s “kitten” actress (known for her delicate beauty) Zubaida Tharwat among others.

Despite all the bad news, there have been positive and historic moments in 2016. After 52 years of war, Colombia’s government signed a revised peace deal with Farc rebels, after a previous deal was rejected by voters.

Steps towards peace are always more difficult and take time, but any concrete step is always good news.

At the Olympics in Rio, there were historic first-time wins for several underdog countries competing against Olympic champs such as the US, China and Russia. Jordan won its first ever gold in taekwondo and the UAE won its first paralympics gold medals by Mohamed Al Hammadi in Jiu-Jitsu and Mohammed Khamis Khalaf in the 88kg powerlifting.

We can’t forget the achievements of Arab women. Sara Ahmed, an 18-year-old Egyptian become the first woman from an Arab country to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting (bronze in 69k weight class). She is also the first Egyptian woman to win an Olympic medal in the country’s 104-year history at the Games. The 23-year-old Emirati Sara Al Senaani became the UAE’s first-ever female Paralympic medallist when she won a historic bronze in the shot put F33 event. There were medical advancements and breakthroughs in the treatment of deadly diseases from new cancer treatments to an Ebola vaccine to the world’s first artificial pancreas. There were also space advancements from discovering a new planet dubbed Proxima b to the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves and various technological advancements in transport.

While the natural world and its species struggle to survive, with the elegant cheetah being declared as close to extinction, there have been new species discovered in 2016, like a cuddly new rabbit-like animal Sikkim pika and a spider that looks like the “sorting hat” from Harry Potter, inspiring its name: Eriovixia gryffindori, after the magical sorting hat owned by Godric Gryffindor.

For some, this year was a total image change. Just look at Barbie. For over 57 years, the famous doll was stick thin and unrealistic – making some of us feel bad about our imperfect bodies – until this year when Mattel introduced three new body types for Barbie: tall, petite and curvy.

In any year, there are good times and bad times, personal achievements, and personal losses. Given the difficulty of 2016, it makes it even more important to put an extra effort (perhaps even take a completely uncharted personal route) to make 2017 better.

On Twitter: @arabianmau