Egypt's politics permeate Ramadan drama. Just ask Ola
Watching television dramas is one of the integral ingredients of Ramadan in Egypt, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The fasting month, which began on 10 July this year, is considered Egypt’s most lucrative television season.
This year, however, political undertones will appear across the spectrum in Ramadan TV serials and sitcoms.
The political turmoil experienced by Egypt since the 2011 revolution appears to have seeped into its Ramadan television programming.
Approximately 40 new serials will be broadcast during the holy month on Egyptian and Arab satellite channels, alongside religious programming and seemingly endless advertisements.
A range of actors will star in a wide variety of shows, from veteran celebrities such as Adel Imam, Youssra, Nour El-Sherif and Elham Shaheen, to stars from the younger generation, such as Mona Zaki, Khaled El-Sawy and Minna Shalaby.
Many actors who usually appear on the big screen are now turning to television, especially since the cinema industry – and the economy at large – has suffered after the 25 January revolution.
Ramadan shows this year will feature first-tier actresses, such as Youssra in 'Negdeb Law Qolna Mabenhebesh' ('We would be lying if we said we didn't love'), Mona Zaki in 'Asia,' Ghada Abdel-Razik in 'Hekayet Haya' ('Life Story'), Elham Shaheen in 'Nezareyet El-Gawafa' ('Guava Theory') and Laila Elwy in 'Farah Laila' ('Laila's Wedding'), among others.
First-tier actors will also star in a range of anticipated shows.
In 'Al-Zawga Al-Thaneya' ('The Second Wife'), famed star Amr Waked teams up with Ola Ghanem in a series that tackles the idea of a dictator and his relationship with an oppressed society.
As usual, actors from the Arab world will appear in Egypt's soaps, including Jordanian actress May Selim in 'Mazag Al-Kheir' ('Clarity of Mind'), Syrian actress Kendah Alwash in 'Niran Sadeeka' ('Friendly Fire') and the Algerian Amal Beshousha in 'Taht El-Ard' ('Underground'), among many others.
Another soap that will reflect the socio-political changes taking place in contemporary Egypt is 'Coffee Shop,' an all-male show which follows a group of friends who sit in a traditional Egyptian coffeehouse and discuss contemporary social, political and economic matters.
In light of the increased prominence of political Islam and a tendency towards conservatism in society, the show's director, Wagdy El-Araby, said that the sitcom's idea was to preserve Islamic principles and refrain from sin, while providing audiences with art and drama.
Still, it is likely that this Ramadan, in light of the recent dismissal of president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests and military intervention, that soap operas will be rivalled by news programmes.