arrived in Israel ahead of the pageant, with contestants from

Miss Universe hopefuls have arrived in Israel ahead of the pageant, with contestants from more than 80 countries – including the GCC – hoping to take home the winning crown.

Israel will host the Miss Universe beauty pageant on Dec 12 despite imposing travel restrictions in a bid to stave off the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said on Sunday.

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He said participants in the contest, to be held in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, were granted waivers from the curbs, despite a ban on the entry of foreigners into the country.

Official pictures released by Miss Universe organizers show the contestants taking the opportunity to explore all the host country has to offer, beginning in Jerusalem and ending their trip in Eilat, where the competition will take place.

Their country-wide tour has included a trip to Israel’s famed Dead Sea and the headquarters of Israeli national airline El Al.

Among the hopefuls this year is Manar Nadeem Deyani, 25, who is set to make history when she becomes the first beauty queen from Bahrain to represent her country at the pageant.

A Dubai resident, Deyani has been named as her country’s representative at the global pageant.

“I may be the shortest candidate in the history of Miss Universe, but I stand tall representing a country of love, peace and kindness – your first ever Miss Universe Bahrain,” Deyani posted on Instagram, announcing her participation.

On Deyani’s description on the Miss Universe website, she said: ““Nowadays people have a concept of what a beauty queen is, but she is here on the international stage as the first Bahraini representative to show the we are a generation that breaks stereotype.”

The United Arab Emirates is also expected to send a participant this year.

This will mark the first time that a delegate from the UAE has competed in the event, although organizers behind the first-ever Miss Universe UAE canceled a planned coronation night for the inaugural beauty contest in November.

The event, which was supposed to be held on Sunday, November 7, was called off “due to time constraints,” according to a statement posted by organizers on their Instagram story.

No updates were posted on the organization’s dedicated Twitter page and a new date has not been announced.

On the online voting poll, which has headshots of each participating country’s representative, including biographies, the UAE continues to have a blank space.

In another historic moment, Miss Universe Morocco returns to the competition for the first time in over four decades.

This year, the pageant, in addition to celebrating the past 70 years of championing strong women and their platforms, will also shine a spotlight on the issue of global warming as part of a green agenda that corresponds with the values of the host country.

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