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RIYADH: Lebanese beauty queens Maya Aboul Hosn and Yasmina Zaytoun made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as guests at the “Arabian Roots and Routes” event hosted by the Lebanese Embassy in Riyadh.

Aboul Hosn shared with Arab News her first impressions while visiting Riyadh, this year’s host for World Tourism Day, for the first time.

She said: “I love this place. The thing I most love here are the people. They’re very welcoming and very helpful.”

Zaytoun returned only months after she attended the Forbes Middle East Women’s Summit in May, chaired by Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud.

Zaytoun said: “In the past year I’ve visited so many cities and I fell in love with so many places, but it’s rare to find a city where there is a view of the future and culture at the same time.

“And Riyadh has the culture, the history, the future all at the same time.”

The women were spotted during Tuesday’s event, and Lebanese pride was in their eyes as they heard diplomats and ministers give speeches that focused on Lebanon’s natural, cultural, and historical treasures.

Zaytoun and Aboul Hosn became symbols of Lebanese beauty in the 2022 Miss Lebanon beauty pageant — the first to take place since 2018.

The crown of Miss Lebanon 2022 was given to Zaytoun with Aboul Hosn the first runner-up.

Aboul Hosn will represent Lebanon at Miss Universe in El Salvador in November, competing with over 130 countries for the prestigious pageant title.

Zaytoun took part in the 2022 edition of Miss Universe and will go on to compete in India, this time at Miss World, in December.

“Arab beauty, I can say, (is) fierce, strong and very ambitious,” Aboul Hosn said.

Zaytoun added: “What I would do is raise my voice more and more to show them who we really are, how strong we are, how ambitious we are.

“Because Arab women are the mix of everything: of being strong, being independent, being beautiful, being smart. And I really want to show this to the world.”

In the world of beauty pageants, Miss Universe and Miss World are the most iconic.

Aboul Hosn said: “I would advise them (models) to dream big. Embrace your uniqueness. And the most important thing is to break barriers and to create a world where there’s equality and everyone can achieve their dreams.

“I need to tell all the women in the world or the teenagers in the world that they are beautiful just the way they are.

“Just the way you look, with your imperfections in your face, in your body. Just love yourself just the way you are. And don’t let anyone change you.”

The beauty queens are from small towns and the odds were stacked against them rising to the top of their profession.

Aboul Hosn, 25, hails from the small village of Btekhnay in Mount Lebanon while Zaytoun, 21, comes from Kfarchouba in the southern region of the country.

Zaytoun is currently studying journalism while Aboul Hosn is a host of LBCI’s daily show “Morning Talk.”

Optimism in creating a bright future is synonymous with being Lebanese, the women said.

“Lebanon is a place where people are struggling, but they still find hope. They are fighting, but they’re still smiling and being happy,” said Zaytoun.

“The word resilience is the definition of being Lebanese.”

Aboul Hosn said: “Since I was a child I’ve had a very supportive family who always helped me to reach my goals, reach my dreams, and never prevented me from achieving my dreams.”

From Beirut to Riyadh, Aboul Hosn and Zaytoun are joining hands with Saudi women to showcase to the world a new Middle East — a region bursting with ambition, inspiration, and creativity.

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