The Ottoman Empire, after centuries of rule has left indelible marks on Arab lands, leaving its imprint on art, language and food. But the legacy that shows itself most powerful is more cinematic and some could argue cultural: Soap Opera.
At least 20 Turkish soaps have aired on Arab television, offering an escape from the hard daily realities of life. Three years ago, April 2008, and the one everyone was talking about was "Nur". Today in many parts of the MBC-viewing-Arab world it's "Forbidden Love" (or Ushk il Mamnou) which has stormed the Arab world, across the board. Teenagers, have the sexy images on their pencil cases, and 30-40 something’s are wearing perfume (purportedly) used in the show, or fawning over the high-fashion wardrobes of the characters. Married couples are having tiffs over the sex appeal of the lead characters.
Turks visiting Arab countries speak of an enthusiastic barrage of enquiries they are subjected to from hopeful Arab fans trying to obtain some kind of inside track knowledge about the soap, trivia etc. Arabs touring Turkey want to see their fictional drama being lived on home territory, and enquire about seeing the mansion and river and idyllic surrounds.
"Nur" was first to be introduced aired on Saudi owned channel MBC, dubbed into Syrian Arabic ( a familiar dialect for TV drama together with Egyptian Arabic) and transcribed with Arabic names. Upward of 85 million viewers across the Arab world tuned in for a record high Arab- TV-viewing, for Nur.
Whether it’s the lifestyle and escapist quality of the lives lived by rich and idle, or the love and romance together with the intrigue, there’s something for everyone. The Turkish soaps have sold themselves to the Arabs and here’s taking a closer look at Ish il Mamnou for what’s really causing the buzz and stir from the Levant to the Arabian peninsula and North Africa.
For Arabs, what is the appeal?
Escapism: These hour long episodes offer escape from hard reality of daily life and a glimpse into a life they can only dream of given a world often dominated by news delivered live and streamed into their living rooms. Arabs seemed to be bored of Arabic soaps- and in need of fresh faces.
They don’t want the gritty features of real life that they get from news and their environment.
These Turkish starring families lead fictionally beautiful picture perfect lives, at least when you take aside their turbulent drama and moral quagmires and combustive plots where doom is forecast early on.
Their societies are not worlds apart and it is nice for the Arab world to feel less isolated or unique. Once upon a time, Hispanic or Mexican soap operas were all the rage. But this fixation with Turkey allows for Muslim culture familiarity to also filter across .Though in the Arab world it by no means attracts Muslims alone, Christian Arabs enjoy it with equal gusto.
Religious clerics were not so impressed following Nur’s big success in the conservative Gulf world. They issued Fatwehs charging these shows with promoting vice and debaucheries- fatwehs that made it permissible to kill someone for broadcasting it.
Forbidden Love (Ishk il Mamnou)
Has really taken the Near and Mid East by storm—and was even a big hit by Turkish standards at home.
In the Gulf, people who would not think twice before entering a loveless arranged marriage are now seeking more and how women there are all looking for men like the male star in the series who treats his wife with kindness .. The show has even led to divorces by jealous husbands who are insulted when their wives find Mohannet (the show’s stud) to be eye candy!
The plot, a family saga set in today’s Turkey but based on a novel by Halid Ziya Usakligil from 1899, revolves around Adnan Ziyagil, a rich widower in Istanbul who marries the much younger and beautiful Bihter. Drama and intrigue set in as Bihter begins a relationship with Behlul Haznedar, her husband’s fun-seeking nephew.
The escapist quality of the drama is quite palpable, with expensive clothes and perfume all set in the mansion where they live with its panoramic vantage out on the Bosporus.
Even those who did not watch it in its entity will be rushing to watch the last episode…