Good, bad and ugly: The top 5 videos of 2014

As thousands watched videos of beheadings, others watched dancing Iranians and laughed over startled children

Thomas El-Basha
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This year saw an epic list of viral videos. From Michel Obama dancing with a turnip, a mysterious lake appearing in the Tunisian desert, to an outspoken Egyptian woman giving the U.S. president a right scolding and advice to “shut up your mouth,” 2014 had hundreds of videos filled with humor and folly.

Sadly, 2014 was also the year millions watched ghastly videos of beheadings and other violence in the Middle East, many the works of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – an Al-Qaeda offshoot bent on establishing a hard-line Islamic state, or “caliphate,” in the Levant.


Throughout, Al Arabiya News published a diverse array of videos sampled from the region and abroad that have caught the attention of the public.

As the year draws to an end and the New Year approaches, we’ve compiled a list of the five most-watched videos on Al Arabiya News in 2014.

Combined, the videos have been watched by almost half a million viewers. They touch on the funny, endearing as well as grim episodes of what many regard as rollercoaster year for the region.

In no particular order, Al Arabiya News’ five most-watched videos in 2014 were:

1- Sexual harassment in Cairo’s Tahrir Square

Video: Disturbing sexual harassment scene in Cairo’s Tahrir square

In early June 2014, world attention turned to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after a graphic video emerged on YouTube showing the sexual assault and stripping naked of a woman by a mob at Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that saw an end to the rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

The assault occurred as thousands gathered at the popular square to celebrate the inauguration President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

According to the country’s Interior Ministry, the attackers first formed a circle around the woman and her teenage daughter, stripped the mother of her clothes and then assaulted her. The woman also sustained burn injuries after falling on a bowl of hot water used by a tea maker at the square.

Seven suspects were arrested and as well marring Sisi’s inauguration, the incident prompted an outcry and deep soul searching on the reasons behind the high rate of sexual assaults against women Egypt.

2- Sexual assault victim calls on God for vengeance

Days after the horrific sexual assault of a woman at Cairo’s Tahrir Square in June 2014, video posted online showed the widow calling on God for vengeance.

Traumatized and barely able to talk, the woman described the incident to an Egyptian minister who visited her in hospital, explaining how she had been at the square trying to make ends meet given she was the sole breadwinner in the family.

“I have a newspaper called ‘Eyes of the Nation,’ she said. “I was out doing some reporting,” she added.

“I wanted to go out and take care of my family,” she said, adding that she hoped “God takes his vengeance on the culprits.”

3- Dancing the hijab away

Letting you hair down isn’t a crime in the Islamic Republic. So why would a video of woman busting some moves on the roof of a car cause such a hubbub?

The striking element of the video, which was posted online in September, comes early on when the woman, who is dancing to a traditional Iranian song, removes her hijab, or Islamic headscarf, defying the country’s dress code for women.

Unseen in the clip are onlookers who can be heard applauding and cheering the woman as she removes the headpiece, revealing her long, dark hair for everyone to see.

Although the video has not been independently verified, it was reportedly a big hit in the Islamic Republic, where those who float the dress code face tough penalties.

4- The curse of ISIS

Video: ISIS dumps bodies of executed rivals in deep gorge

The next video is one of several that have been released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of alleged beheadings in areas that the militant group has seized control of in Iraq and Syria.

The video, which was edited due to its graphic content, shows three men kneeling down at a public square in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the militant group’s so-called “caliphate.”

Behind the three men, whose heads are covered in plastic bags, stand a group of masked, armed ISIS fighters, one of whom is carrying the group’s notorious black-and-white flag.

One of the militants reads out the charge against the three: "Cursing the Lord in markets, streets, and homes," an offense that is punishable by death according to ISIS’s strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law.

The three are summarily executed by beheading.

The clip ends with footage showing the corpses being flung into a deep gorge.

5- Memorable day at the mall

West meets East is the theme of our final video, which was also the most viewed in 2014, and shows a young, curly-haired Western girl awestruck upon entering a mall believed to be in the emirate of Dubai.

The angelic-looking girl called Scarlett is baffled upon hearing the Muslim call to prayer, which can be heard throughout the mall, prompting her to go search for the source of the serene chanting.

“That’s the call to prayer,” her dad explains.

Unconvinced, Scarlett tells her mum that “that’s the voice of the Lion King,” referring to a popular animated Disney film.

The video was viewed almost a quarter of a million times.

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