8 unpredictable themes in this year's Ramadan TV schedule

Published June 7th, 2016 - 03:57 GMT

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Ramadan is in full swing and competition is already heating up between Arab actors and producers over whose TV drama is set to steal the region’s silver screens during the holy month.

Though certainly not as old a Ramadan tradition as sunset’s iftar meal, the month-long dramas we’ve gathered here have in recent years become almost as central to the month of fasting as, well, fasting.  

This year’s batch of Holy Month soaps range from historical dramas to romances to cross-cultural collaborations, as well as the escapist, cheap laugh-mill from Egypt's Borat-Ali-G-fashioned hoax artist, Ramadan's Ramez. Check out our roundup of series to keep an eye out for while you’re feeling fasting-fatigue and in need of some serious sofa-slumming this Ramadan Continue reading below »

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Nostalgia: Classic “Bab al-Hara” airs this summer for an eighth season of the Syrian saga. Set in Damascus’s old city center, and shot in Syria since 2006, it’s a wonder the show has survived 5 years of political turmoil - perhaps due to its strong doses of nostalgia for a Syria long past, and hefty funding from UAE broadcasting giant MBC.
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Image 1 of 8:  1 / 8Nostalgia: Classic “Bab al-Hara” airs this summer for an eighth season of the Syrian saga. Set in Damascus’s old city center, and shot in Syria since 2006, it’s a wonder the show has survived 5 years of political turmoil - perhaps due to its strong doses of nostalgia for a Syria long past, and hefty funding from UAE broadcasting giant MBC.

Enlarge
Racism in the Arab World: Based on a novel of the same name, “Bamboo Stalk” follows the story of half-Filipino, half-Kuwaiti Isa Jose, played by popular comedian Wonho Chung.  The series is expected to take a controversial look at race relations in Kuwait, and examine the often-ignored lives of domestic workers.
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Image 2 of 8:  2 / 8Racism in the Arab World: Based on a novel of the same name, “Bamboo Stalk” follows the story of half-Filipino, half-Kuwaiti Isa Jose, played by popular comedian Wonho Chung. The series is expected to take a controversial look at race relations in Kuwait, and examine the often-ignored lives of domestic workers.

Enlarge
Cross-culture-country cooperation, with this Turkish-Arab alliance: Arabs may have marked 100 years since they revolted against their Ottoman oppressors this June, but we all know Turkish soaps are huge on Arab TV sets. A first collaboration between Turkish and Arab producers, 'The Big House,' explores Turkish-Arab relationships in the Mideast.
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Image 3 of 8:  3 / 8Cross-culture-country cooperation, with this Turkish-Arab alliance: Arabs may have marked 100 years since they revolted against their Ottoman oppressors this June, but we all know Turkish soaps are huge on Arab TV sets. A first collaboration between Turkish and Arab producers, "The Big House," explores Turkish-Arab relationships in the Mideast.

Enlarge
Islamic World history: Feeling erudite? Take a literary ride with “Samarkand,” a historical drama for Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Or sample “Sultan & Shah”, which explores (clue's in the title) Ottoman-Persian (specifically Safavid) relations. “Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal” is a biopic of one of four founders of the Islamic “Mathaheb.'
Reduce

Image 4 of 8:  4 / 8Islamic World history: Feeling erudite? Take a literary ride with “Samarkand,” a historical drama for Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Or sample “Sultan & Shah”, which explores (clue's in the title) Ottoman-Persian (specifically Safavid) relations. “Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal” is a biopic of one of four founders of the Islamic “Mathaheb."

Enlarge
More screen time for Jordan: Oscar-nominated Jordanian film Theeb placed Jordan on the cinematic map earlier this year.  Ramadan  should continue the trend. “Malik bin al Raib,” the story of a bedouin poet, and “Al Damaa Al Hamra,” a bedouin romance, were both filmed on location in the kingdom.
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Image 5 of 8:  5 / 8More screen time for Jordan: Oscar-nominated Jordanian film Theeb placed Jordan on the cinematic map earlier this year. Ramadan should continue the trend. “Malik bin al Raib,” the story of a bedouin poet, and “Al Damaa Al Hamra,” a bedouin romance, were both filmed on location in the kingdom.

Enlarge
Social commentary of daily life: Popular parody “Selfie” is back for round 2, as is “Diary of an Angry Wife,” about Egyptian journalists in the aftermath of the Jan 25 revolution. Arab TV rarely eschews politics, true to Arab life. “The Tzar”  is framed around a terrorist cell; “Ash-hafan Al Qatu” is an Emirati satire cartoon.
Reduce

Image 6 of 8:  6 / 8Social commentary of daily life: Popular parody “Selfie” is back for round 2, as is “Diary of an Angry Wife,” about Egyptian journalists in the aftermath of the Jan 25 revolution. Arab TV rarely eschews politics, true to Arab life. “The Tzar” is framed around a terrorist cell; “Ash-hafan Al Qatu” is an Emirati satire cartoon.

Enlarge
Women in the Arab World: Strong women characters get decent screen time in a range of roles (career women, victims, criminals) this Ramadan, with “The Balance” and “She and Da Vinci,” dramas about female lawyers in Egypt. 'A Psychiatric Clinic' tackles sexual harassment, and 'Free Fall' follows a female psychopath and (possible) murderer.
Reduce

Image 7 of 8:  7 / 8Women in the Arab World: Strong women characters get decent screen time in a range of roles (career women, victims, criminals) this Ramadan, with “The Balance” and “She and Da Vinci,” dramas about female lawyers in Egypt. "A Psychiatric Clinic" tackles sexual harassment, and "Free Fall" follows a female psychopath and (possible) murderer.

Enlarge
Extreme laughs: last year, Egyptian prankster Ramez Galal pushed the limit with his plane-crash prank show - he even included Paris Hilton in one episode. Now, he's back in 'Ramez Plays with Fire,' an aptly-named prank series where he'll trick celebrities into thinking they must escape a burning building by helicopter.
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Image 8 of 8:  8 / 8Extreme laughs: last year, Egyptian prankster Ramez Galal pushed the limit with his plane-crash prank show - he even included Paris Hilton in one episode. Now, he's back in "Ramez Plays with Fire," an aptly-named prank series where he'll trick celebrities into thinking they must escape a burning building by helicopter.

Enlarge

1

Nostalgia: Classic “Bab al-Hara” airs this summer for an eighth season of the Syrian saga. Set in Damascus’s old city center, and shot in Syria since 2006, it’s a wonder the show has survived 5 years of political turmoil - perhaps due to its strong doses of nostalgia for a Syria long past, and hefty funding from UAE broadcasting giant MBC.

Image 1 of 8Nostalgia: Classic “Bab al-Hara” airs this summer for an eighth season of the Syrian saga. Set in Damascus’s old city center, and shot in Syria since 2006, it’s a wonder the show has survived 5 years of political turmoil - perhaps due to its strong doses of nostalgia for a Syria long past, and hefty funding from UAE broadcasting giant MBC.

2

Racism in the Arab World: Based on a novel of the same name, “Bamboo Stalk” follows the story of half-Filipino, half-Kuwaiti Isa Jose, played by popular comedian Wonho Chung.  The series is expected to take a controversial look at race relations in Kuwait, and examine the often-ignored lives of domestic workers.

Image 2 of 8Racism in the Arab World: Based on a novel of the same name, “Bamboo Stalk” follows the story of half-Filipino, half-Kuwaiti Isa Jose, played by popular comedian Wonho Chung. The series is expected to take a controversial look at race relations in Kuwait, and examine the often-ignored lives of domestic workers.

3

Cross-culture-country cooperation, with this Turkish-Arab alliance: Arabs may have marked 100 years since they revolted against their Ottoman oppressors this June, but we all know Turkish soaps are huge on Arab TV sets. A first collaboration between Turkish and Arab producers, 'The Big House,' explores Turkish-Arab relationships in the Mideast.

Image 3 of 8Cross-culture-country cooperation, with this Turkish-Arab alliance: Arabs may have marked 100 years since they revolted against their Ottoman oppressors this June, but we all know Turkish soaps are huge on Arab TV sets. A first collaboration between Turkish and Arab producers, "The Big House," explores Turkish-Arab relationships in the Mideast.

4

Islamic World history: Feeling erudite? Take a literary ride with “Samarkand,” a historical drama for Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Or sample “Sultan & Shah”, which explores (clue's in the title) Ottoman-Persian (specifically Safavid) relations. “Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal” is a biopic of one of four founders of the Islamic “Mathaheb.'

Image 4 of 8Islamic World history: Feeling erudite? Take a literary ride with “Samarkand,” a historical drama for Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Or sample “Sultan & Shah”, which explores (clue's in the title) Ottoman-Persian (specifically Safavid) relations. “Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal” is a biopic of one of four founders of the Islamic “Mathaheb."

5

More screen time for Jordan: Oscar-nominated Jordanian film Theeb placed Jordan on the cinematic map earlier this year.  Ramadan  should continue the trend. “Malik bin al Raib,” the story of a bedouin poet, and “Al Damaa Al Hamra,” a bedouin romance, were both filmed on location in the kingdom.

Image 5 of 8More screen time for Jordan: Oscar-nominated Jordanian film Theeb placed Jordan on the cinematic map earlier this year. Ramadan should continue the trend. “Malik bin al Raib,” the story of a bedouin poet, and “Al Damaa Al Hamra,” a bedouin romance, were both filmed on location in the kingdom.

6

Social commentary of daily life: Popular parody “Selfie” is back for round 2, as is “Diary of an Angry Wife,” about Egyptian journalists in the aftermath of the Jan 25 revolution. Arab TV rarely eschews politics, true to Arab life. “The Tzar”  is framed around a terrorist cell; “Ash-hafan Al Qatu” is an Emirati satire cartoon.

Image 6 of 8Social commentary of daily life: Popular parody “Selfie” is back for round 2, as is “Diary of an Angry Wife,” about Egyptian journalists in the aftermath of the Jan 25 revolution. Arab TV rarely eschews politics, true to Arab life. “The Tzar” is framed around a terrorist cell; “Ash-hafan Al Qatu” is an Emirati satire cartoon.

7

Women in the Arab World: Strong women characters get decent screen time in a range of roles (career women, victims, criminals) this Ramadan, with “The Balance” and “She and Da Vinci,” dramas about female lawyers in Egypt. 'A Psychiatric Clinic' tackles sexual harassment, and 'Free Fall' follows a female psychopath and (possible) murderer.

Image 7 of 8Women in the Arab World: Strong women characters get decent screen time in a range of roles (career women, victims, criminals) this Ramadan, with “The Balance” and “She and Da Vinci,” dramas about female lawyers in Egypt. "A Psychiatric Clinic" tackles sexual harassment, and "Free Fall" follows a female psychopath and (possible) murderer.

8

Extreme laughs: last year, Egyptian prankster Ramez Galal pushed the limit with his plane-crash prank show - he even included Paris Hilton in one episode. Now, he's back in 'Ramez Plays with Fire,' an aptly-named prank series where he'll trick celebrities into thinking they must escape a burning building by helicopter.

Image 8 of 8Extreme laughs: last year, Egyptian prankster Ramez Galal pushed the limit with his plane-crash prank show - he even included Paris Hilton in one episode. Now, he's back in "Ramez Plays with Fire," an aptly-named prank series where he'll trick celebrities into thinking they must escape a burning building by helicopter.

Reduce

Today’s summer season of soap shows are far from the simple traditional hikaye tales passed down in Arab households of the past - Ramadan TV has become a multi-million dollar industry brimming with glitz, much like the holiday-themed Christmas specials you’d expect in the West.

But unlike Christmas specials which are festively themed, the themes and subjects Ramadan dramas touch on are eclectic, edgy, educational and even exhilarating in order to draw as many viewers as possible.  Last year, we saw an Egyptian love story between a Muslim and a Jew in “The Jewish Neighborhood,” and hilarious social commentary in the parody show “Selfie,” which poked fun at Daesh.

 

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