By: Hana Kotb

Miss Egypt and Miss Lebanon are set to represent the Middle East at this year’s Miss Universe 2018 competition in Bangkok, Thailand on December 16.  Miss Egypt, Nariman Khaled, and Miss ­Lebanon, Maya Reaidy, are the only Arab contestants at the 67th edition of Miss Universe, which has a total of 93 contestants–the most contestants ever to compete in the international event. The show is set to be hosted by US comedian Steve Harvey, who in 2016 made international headlines in a hilarious, cringe-worthy slip-up where he announced the wrong winner. Co-hosting is US model Ashley Graham. Meanwhile American singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and dancer, Ne-Yo, will perform during the competition.

Nariman Khaled, representing Egypt, is a business information systems student, and also plays the ukulele. This Hurghada-ian was picked out of 17 other candidates for the crown and the right to represent the North African nation at this year’s competition. She is a volunteer with NGOs in Egypt and practices yoga and meditation. If she wins, she will be the first Egyptian contestant to claim the title. However, she wouldn’t be the first from her country to take home a major international pageant title. In 1954, Antigone Costanda became the first Miss Egypt to be crowned Miss World.

On the other hand, Maya Reaidy, representing Lebanon, is a fifth year ­pharmacy student at the Lebanese American University, and studied psychology for two years prior to that. She speaks four languages fluently – English, Arabic, French, and Russian. She is also an active person who enjoys yoga, reading psychology, traveling, and leading an Ayurvedic lifestyle, which is the traditional Hindu system of body healing. If she wins Miss Universe, she says she would use her title to support and promote women in the Middle East, tackling issues ranging from sexual harassment to education. If Reaidy does win, it would not be the first time Lebanon takes home the crows. In 1971, Miss Lebanon, ­Georgina Rizk, took home the Miss Universe crown, grabbing the Middle East its first win.

Ever wondered what the winner receives? This year’s winner will receive an impressive prize package which includes a year-long salary as Miss Universe; luxury accommodation in a New York City apartment for the duration of her reign, including living expenses; a one-year supply of beauty products; a full shoe wardrobe from Chinese Laundry shoes and ­accessories; a modelling portfolio by leading fashion photographers; skin and healthcare products; extensive ­travel representing sponsors and charitable partners; access to various events including ­casting ­opportunities, movie ­premiers, screenings, ­Broadway shows and launch parties; and a personal ­appearance wardrobe and styling by the official Miss Universe Organisation ­fashion stylist.